RAPID: Exploring Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Undergraduate STEM Education by Student Gender, Race/Ethnicity, and Socioeconomic Status

Project: Research project

Project Details


The COVID-19 pandemic presents unprecedented challenges to undergraduate education. Although the disruption affects the entire academic community, the impacts are not equal. For example, students with low socioeconomic status, first generation students, and women may be affected more strongly by the disruptions than other students. Thus, based on students' demographics, the pandemic may be more likely or less likely to exacerbate existing or create new differential impacts on students. This study seeks to investigate this likely unequal impact among a large sample of students enrolled in calculus courses in spring 2020. A survey will gather student voices by probing how this disaster has affected students in STEM career pathways. The survey needs to be conducted immediately to gather the information from the students as they experience the disruption in their collegiate education.

The goal of this study is to conduct a timely mixed-methods study to collect data from a representative sample of undergraduate STEM students from varied backgrounds. The data will include the student voice about their experiences including: 1) the transition away from campus; 2) the challenges experienced; 3) the degree to which challenges affected attendance, academic performance, withdrawal rates, and college dropout rates; and 4) factors that facilitated success or failure among among all students, including underresourced and underrepresented students. After gathering data via the survey, the project team will facilitate 15 focus groups of about six students, balanced by socioeconomic status, race or ethnicity, and gender. Using a socioecological framework, the project team will analyze factors across multiple levels, ranging from the individual to public policy, and use the survey and focus group data to develop a quantitative survey. This work represents novel STEM-education research in an urgent and unique context. The findings may immediately inform interventions to address the needs of current undergraduate STEM students in the US. Formal reports and recommendations that arise will be published and disseminated in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021. In the longer term, results may inform evidence-based recommendations regarding distance versus on-campus learning for students, including students from underresourced and underrepresented backgrounds. This RAPID award is made by the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education program in the Division of Undergraduate Education (Education and Human Resources Directorate), using funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date5/1/204/30/22


  • National Science Foundation: $127,748.00


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.