Silva Leads Team Studying Interconnections Between Online Learning, Equity, and Access

8/16/2021 2:10:10 PM Colin Robertson, Illinois CS

Mariana Silva
Mariana Silva

Illinois CS professor Mariana Silva is leading a team that has received a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Undergraduate Education to explore the interconnections between online learning, equity, and access.

Instructional activities where two or more students learn something together are associated with increased student persistence, learning outcomes, and retention. COVID-19 exposed the need to adapt these collaborative learning activities to fit a variety of delivery modes, with the use of video conferences and other technology tools.

However, there is currently a lack of evidence-based practices to maximize synchronous collaborative learning in online environments. There is also a danger that these learning activities could widen the digital equity gap by affecting students from low socioeconomic groups, or across different time zones.

Silva, with Illinois CS professor Geoffrey Herman and Illinois MechSE professor Matthew West, plans to explore the impact of students’ choice of synchronous or asynchronous classes on their learning goals, sense of belonging, and satisfaction.

The team then plans to develop online strategies for collaborative learning by adapting from existing evidence-based face-to-face facilitation strategies, including the use of group awareness tools and designated team roles.

The three-year research project, “Enhancing Equity and Access Via Digitally-Mediated Collaborative Learning Experiences,” will begin on October 15.