Replicating Peer-Led Team Learning in cyberspace: Research, opportunities, and challenges

Joshua Smith, Sarah Beth Wilson, Julianna Banks, Lin Zhu2, Pratibha Varma-Nelson

This quasi-experimental, mixed methods study examined the transfer of a well-established pedagogical strategy, Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL), to an online workshop environment (cPLTL) in a general chemistry course at a research university in the Midwest. The null hypothesis guiding the study was that no substantive differences would emerge between the two workshop settings. Students in the PLTL (n = 220) condition were more satisfied with their workshop and earned statistically significantly higher course grades, yet earned comparable standardized final exam scores. They also had lower incidence of students’ earning D or F course grades or withdrawing from the course (DFW rates) than students in the cPLTL setting (n = 175). Interviews with 10 peer leaders and 2 faculty members, as well as discourse analysis of workshop sessions, revealed more similarities than differences in the two conditions. The final exam scores and discourse analysis support the null hypothesis and use of both face-to-face and synchronous online peer-led workshops in early science courses.


The Aeolus project: Science outreach through art

Ian A. Drumm, Amanda Belantara, Steve Dorney, Timothy P. Waters, Eulalia Peris

With a general decline in people’s choosing to pursue science and engineering degrees there has never been a greater need to raise the awareness of lesser known fields such as acoustics. Given this context, a large-scale public engagement project, the ‘Aeolus project’, was created to raise awareness of acoustics science through a major collaboration between an acclaimed artist and acoustics researchers. It centred on touring the large singing sculpture Aeolus during 2011/12, though the project also included an extensive outreach programme of talks, exhibitions, community workshops and resources for schools. Described here are the motivations behind the project and the artwork itself, the ways in which scientists and an artist collaborated, and the public engagement activities designed as part of the project. Evaluation results suggest that the project achieved its goal of inspiring interest in the discipline of acoustics through the exploration of an otherworldly work of art.