An update of recent CURE-related research, opportunities, and resources.
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CUREnet Quarterly - June 2020

Recent Publications

Authentic science experiences with STEM datasets: post-secondary results and potential gender influences
This article seeks to understand authentic science learning using datasets within the context of astronomy. As students worked with Google Sheets to analyze astronomical data, this work addresses what they are learning, how they are learning it, and who is doing the learning.

An exploratory study of students with depression in undergraduate research experiences
This study explored the undergraduate research experiences of 35 students who identify as having depression. It identified that depression affects students' research experiences and ways that research negatively and positively impacts undergraduate depression.

Uncovering factors influencing instructors' decision process when considering implementation of a course-Based research experience
This paper discusses the results of a qualitative study, framed in diffusion of innovations theory, which explores the decision-making process of undergraduate instructors interested in implementing a short-duration, modular, course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE).

CUREs during COVID-19

The global pandemic COVID-19 put a wrench in many CURE instructor plans for the Spring 2020 semester and is likely to continue to impact CUREs in the 2020-2021 academic year. CUREnet has been busy gathering advice and resources from CURE instructors who have taught their CURE online or are planning to do so. Here is some of their advice:

1. Focus on the data. Because most of the CUREs during spring 2020 were started in person, many were able to engage students in collecting data before campuses shut down. This made it possible for students and instructors to pivot to analyzing data and writing up results. In situations where data had not yet been collected, instructors made use of other available data, either from previous offerings of the CURE, from their own research groups, or from publicly available data repositories. As Kelly Barry explained, "I worked with students to ask what types of data are available, I discussed with TAs about how data could be used, and we continually came back to the table with new ideas [of what could be done] even in the remote environment."

2. Prioritize flexibility. The transition from in-person to online instruction was especially challenging because of the unpredictability and uncertainty of the situation. Many instructors and students were navigating an entirely new educational environment while managing their own personal situations. CURE instructors found it helpful to be flexible with their instruction and with their expectations. For example, the BASIL CURE team started by revisiting their research and learning goals and determining what could be salvaged by using other approaches, such as shifting to computational or informatics work. Then they carefully considered what aspects of the research needed to be cut or postponed to a future semester and what instructional approaches needed to be substituted in order to achieve the learning goals outside of doing the research. They aimed to use whatever tools worked for their context and goals, including video conferencing, shared authoring of documents, and discussion boards. Karl Jarvis shifted to using at-home kits so students could gain some hands-on experience working with DNA and he replaced paper notebooks with electronic lab notebooks (he used Benchling). Josephine Pino took a similar approach, using at-home materials like vinegar for adjusting pH, and digging more deeply into what could be accomplished at a distance rather than trying to cover more material. CURE instructors recognized that students' home environments varied widely, so they tried to be flexible in their expectations. They offered multiple options for how students could complete the course and they made help available both synchronously through online office hours and asynchronously through discussion boards, shared documents, and messaging through technologies such as GroupMe, Slack, or other freely available communication and project management tools.

3. Focus on the learning. It is important to note that all of the instructors who shared their experiences with CUREnet also noted that their CUREs were decidedly different. They felt like their students didn't develop the same level of ownership of their projects and didn't have the same experience of troubleshooting and problem solving. Instructors also found it difficult to provide help and guidance in the moment if and when students struggled with the material. For some CUREs, research progress simply didn't happen. Jason Gillmore and Tracy Smith overcame this by focusing on the fact that "a CURE is first and foremost a course. It may advance a research agenda, but its primary mission is educational. That educational mission should be almost entirely salvageable online, as much or more as in any other course. The degree to which authentic research progress may be achievable remotely will be much more variable. And that's okay! Salvage what you can in all aspects, and put your students first." Karl Jarvis and Josephine Pino found that focusing on the learning helped them accomplish much of what they intended for their CUREs in the first place. Karl explained that, "Many of the fundamental elements of science can still be there, such as collaborating, planning, hypothesizing, reading, analyzing, and presenting. Remotely conducted science is still science." Josephine noted that the situation still allow for creativity and an emphasis on the creative aspects of doing science - that "this is what scientists have to do!"

Thanks to Kelly Barry (Algae Biofuels CURE at Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville), Jason Gillmore and Tracy L. Smith (Organic Chemistry CURE at Hope College) Karl Jarvis (Genetics CURE at Southern Utah University), and Josephine Pino (Touch Plant CURE at Portland Community College), as well as members of the BASIL CURE, Rebecca Roberts (Ursinus College), Paul Craig (Rochester Institute of Technology), Arthur Sikora (Nova Southeastern University), Bonnie Hall (Grand View University), and Julia Koeppe (SUNY-Oswego) for sharing their experiences and advice.

Webinar on CUREs during COVID-19

The American Society for Cell Biology and CBE - Life Sciences Education partnered with CUREnet to host a webinar on Teaching CUREs during COVID19. If you missed it, the recording and chat and Q&A info are available here. Thanks to panelists Katey Cooper, Lauren DePue, Enid Gonzalez-Orta & David Rhoads for sharing their expertise!

Announcements and Opportunities

BCEENET Delaware Museum of Natural History Project Coordinator
The Delaware Museum of Natural History seeks a Project Coordinator (Remote Position) to be responsible for coordinating the rapid development of online, course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) using digital natural history collections. Visit the BCEENET website for more details.

Funding your own CURE

Please visit the CUREnet site to learn more about how others have funded their CUREs and share your own experiences!

Voices from the CURE community

We are interested in collecting narratives from individuals who have implemented CUREs and are willing to share their experience and advice with the rest of the CUREnet community. If you are interested in being featured in an upcoming issue of CUREnet Quarterly, email Logan Gin.

Have news to share?

Use this page on the CUREnet website to submit publications, announcements, and job posts to be featured in the next CUREnet Quarterly newsletter.