In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, universities around the country moved to remote instruction for the remainder of spring term. Faculty and staff were directed to work remotely, and students were asked to move out of their residence halls—presumably to homes where they were expected to have Internet access and a place to study so that they could participate in virtual learning.
“Stay-at-home” orders issued for most states in the nation have prevented students from physically meeting their friends and peers to study together or receive support and encouragement in person. Many who were counting on jobs during spring term to support themselves have not been able to work. Their parents may be going through financial difficulties due to the closure of many non-essential businesses.
History has taught us that in the times of a national crisis, those from marginalized populations suffer the most. The gap between students who belong to disadvantaged groups and those who do not widens. Research has shown that the ability to identify with engineering and the feeling that they belong in their undergraduate peer group is key to students’ persistence, satisfaction, and self-efficacy. This is especially true for students from underrepresented groups. Furthermore, students from marginalized groups benefit from supportive learning communities more than others.
In this roundtable, we will discuss the impact of COVID-19 on engineering students, especially those who belong to underrepresented groups. How has the abrupt conversion to virtual learning affected students’ self-efficacy, motivation, persistence, and engineering identity? What are examples of successfully maintaining supportive learning communities during a pandemic? What are other best practices that lead to offering equitable and inclusive virtual education for all students in our community?