Expanding the STEM Workforce

Dec. 31, 2015

Many students arrive on college campuses with the intention of pursuing science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) majors and careers, but about half of them never complete a STEM degree (48% in a 2013 US Department of Education report). Of those who leave their STEM major, half eventually graduate with a non-STEM degree, but the rest leave college without earning any degree at all. Preparing undergraduates to join the STEM workforce is a high priority for universities, and this rate of attrition has captured the attention of university administrators and educational researchers.

Research on STEM dropouts indicates that students tend to leave their majors when they perform poorly in a course, perceive they lack the critical skills needed to perform tasks in STEM courses and professions, and lack the motivation to continue onward with their training. Dr. Matthew Bernacki and his project team are working to prevent course attrition and improve achievement in STEM courses, thus increasing the number of graduates who are hired into STEM professions. 

Bernacki is Principal Investigator and recipient of a $499,973 award from the National Science Foundation to explore how students use learning management systems - such as UNLV's WebCampus - and whether features designed to help students build their learning skills and maintain their motivation can increase student achievement in STEM courses. The three-year, collaborative project with faculty from Biology (Jenifer Utz), Math (Carryn Warren-Bellomo, Monika Neda), and Engineering (Donald Hayes, Jeffrey Markle) and support from the Office of Information Technology began last fall and will continue through the summer of 2017.