Inspiring and equipping students is not a catchphrase for the School of Information Technology and Computing. It’s something that associate professor Dr. Brian Burton was able to put into practice when he invited two DET majors to join him in a pandemic research project. Jael Morel, junior DET major from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and Camila Rodrigues, senior DET major from Santa Tecla, El Salvador have been working as research assistants since the summer with a team of researchers, including Dr. Burton, to study how the pandemic has affected student learning with the shift to online learning. The goal of the project was to produce a guest issue of The Journal of Literacy & Technology entitled Special Edition: The eLearning Literacy for Suddenly Online – Considerations of Theory, Research, and Practice.
As research assistants for Burton, the students were tasked with keeping track of the status of papers used in the research. As the two students revised, anonymized, and organized the submissions they also helped in the additional revision of the journal. After the pandemic forced the shift to online, Dr. Burton focused on researching the effects of online learning on students diving deep into the ways that transitioning suddenly to online learning affected students’ grades, their learning experience, and their overall mental health. The research shares in detail how each institution that was studied handled the move to online and the change in modalities for learning. Rodrigues learned how much blood, sweat, and tears goes into writing research for a journal. “It is a lot more than just compiling sources. I would say this experience also helped me improve my teamwork skills as I had to rely on different people to get my tasks done.” As for Morel, she enjoyed the opportunity to work on revising and reading all the papers, which enabled her to learn about the different perspectives that each institution worked from during this time. Her favorite part of the project was creating and designing the journal cover.
As a student, the experience has given Camila insight into how learning can be done outside of the classroom setting. Her own personal online experience also reinforced for her the importance of in-person classes as the research confirmed that most students felt like they learned more in the in-person classroom setting than online. The research assistant position benefitted Rodrigues’ work experience as she learned how to work with and rely on a team to complete the research. As a student, she has had her fair share of group projects but this was one of the first times she was able to experience this level of teamwork at a professional level reiterating, “I realized how important each member of a team is and how it will be almost impossible to fulfill a task like this without a team.”
For Jael, the research assistant experience helped shape her view on the typical classroom setting, sharing “I realized how important it is to be well prepared in the midst of the Covid semester. I learned that for a student, it is very important to see the intentionality in their professors. Even though it was hard and challenging to take many classes online, and deal with such a big transition, we saw that students react well when they witness the intentionality of our professors.” Morel shared that it was “incredible to see Dr. Burton in action” as she was able to observe his interactions with other professionals, giving her an inspiring real-world example of professionalism in an industry setting.
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