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Support Scholars to Succeed

PRIME STEM/Student Support Services has launched its first learning community. The PRIME STEM Learning Communities is a resource designed to support scholars to succeed in their coursework and promote overall academic success. “Think of this as study groups by subject,” said Rebekah McCloud, director SDES TRiO, PRIME STEM/Student Support Services.

The learning communities are scholar facilitated (and can be aided by PRIME STEM peer tutor/mentor staff). Each learning community or study group organizes its meetings and participants bring their own study materials. The PRIME STEM/Student Support Services office is available for scholars to use as a resource center including study materials, study spaces, computers, free printing and access to program tutors and mentors.

The learning community also includes study aids for biology, chemistry, trigonometry, calculus and algebra. Additionally, there are study skills materials: time management, note-taking, effective studying techniques, and test-taking tips and a core group of modules for program participants. Modules include:

• How to Form a Study Group
• Making Connections
• Adjusting to Challenges
• Understanding Your Major
• Social Media Etiquette

“Since we have instituted the learning communities, we have noticed a dramatic increase in the number of scholars who come into the office to meet with study groups, utilize resources and/or meet with a peer tutor or mentor,” said McCloud.

For those scholars who prefer to meet virtually, PRIME STEM was recently awarded an Information Fluency grant to expand its web course (PSP1000) through Canvas. In the future, the program will expand the course offerings to develop major-specific virtual learning communities. These communities will be supported by tutors. Additionally, this grant will assist the program in developing a number of modules that will address fluency (information, textual, scientific and mechanical).

This initiative began because PRIME STEM staff noticed that students (especially the biomedical sciences majors) were changing their majors to Health Sciences and the program was no longer able to service them. The National Center for Education Statistics at the Institute of Education Sciences (US Department of Education) noted that some 28 percent of beginning bachelor degree students …entered a STEM field at some point during their enrollment…and 48 percent had left these fields by either changing their majors or leaving college altogether without completing a degree or certificate.

“It is imperative that we are proactive in doing all we can to assist our students to pursue a STEM major. I do not want any of them to become a statistic,” said McCloud. “Of the 180 students PRIME STEM has served, to date 32 (17%) have changed their majors. Clearly not as high as NCES reports, this number is still cause for concern, informal dialogue with PRIME STEM ‘major changers’ revealed that the overwhelming majority changed their majors because they experienced failure with math and sciences courses (most among the GEP), particularly calculus, trigonometry, and chemistry. We are hopeful that these learning communities will help students to increase their academic performance,” McCloud added.