Three Ways to Address STEM Exclusion Through EdTech
Recent shifts in the global economy have placed a renewed national focus on STEM-Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. We are also facing a crisis in STEM attrition. Large swathes of students (-48% of bachelor’s and 69% associate’s candidates) who enter STEM majors in higher learning either drop out of their degree without completing it or change to a different program. Policymakers are concerned that the lack of STEM-educated talent could negatively impact our ability compete in global markets.
While STEM attrition is inevitable, there are many strategies that can be implemented to prevent a large portion of students leaving STEM fields. These include closing knowledge gaps, improving math readiness, tracking student engagement, and closing knowledge gaps.
Closing the Knowledge Gap
STEM attrition is a result of the diversity of educational backgrounds and their impact on student performance. Students who have less education than their peers in STEM fields are more likely to fail. However, digital solutions such as WebAssign can help bridge the knowledge gap between students from different educational backgrounds.
WebAssign gives struggling students access to course content, additional learning activities, and review activities such as the Math Readiness Boot Camps. This allows them to catch up with their peers and be ready when they enter the classroom.
STEM attrition is also caused by a lack of student engagement. Many intro-level STEM courses are designed to discourage students from engaging in difficult material.
These intro classes can be quite overwhelming, making it difficult, if not impossible, for instructors to identify who is having difficulty and who has just been dropped out. Instructors can track student performance using Class Insights in WebAssign. This allows them to see who is completing assignments and learning activities.
Instructors can track student performance to identify areas where students are having difficulty with the material. This allows them to intervene before the student is overwhelmed and loses their mind. These early interventions are crucial because STEM students who drop out of STEM courses have a higher likelihood of dropping out.
A lack of college math readiness is another issue that can lead to STEM attrition. Math is the foundation of all STEM fields. Students who take higher-level math courses in their first year seem to have a direct correlation to their progress towards a STEM degree.
NCES found that between 30-40% and 14% of bachelor’s degree candidates who entered STEM fields in their first year of college, but then left college or switched majors, took no mathematics in their first year. This could be due to rampant math anxiety, or a lack of readiness for the material, which could cause many students to drop out of college or avoid math courses once they become overwhelmed.
WebAssign’s enhanced instructor-student communication tools address math anxiety among students. They allow them to reach out to their instructor directly without leaving the assignment. This feature is great for math-anxious students, who might not ask for help because they fear embarrassment or may not know enough math. It also helps them get through difficult concepts and earn the credits they need to complete their degree.