Developing and Testing the Internship-inator, a Virtual Internship in STEM Authorware System

The Internship-inator is an authorware system for developing and testing virtual internships in multiple STEM disciplines. In a virtual internship, students are presented with a complex, real-world STEM problem for which there is no optimal solution. Students work in project teams to read and analyze research reports, design and perform experiments using virtual tools, respond to the requirements of stakeholders and clients, write reports and present and justify their proposed solutions. 

Full Description: 

Ensuring that students have the opportunities to experience STEM as it is conducted by scientists, mathematicians and engineers is a complex task within the current school context. This project will expand access for middle and high school students to virtual internships, by enabling STEM content developers to design and customize virtual internships. The Internship-inator is an authorware system for developing and testing virtual internships in multiple STEM disciplines. In a virtual internship, students are presented with a complex, real-world STEM problem for which there is no optimal solution. Students work in project teams to read and analyze research reports, design and perform experiments using virtual tools, respond to the requirements of stakeholders and clients, write reports and present and justify their proposed solutions. The researchers in this project will work with a core development network to develop and refine the authorware, constructing up to a hundred new virtual internships and a user group of more than 70 STEM content developers. The researchers will iteratively analyze the performance of the authorware, focusing on optimizing the utility and the feasibility of the system to support virtual internship development. They will also examine the ways in which the virtual internships are implemented in the classroom to determine the quality of the STEM internship design and influence on student learning.

The Intership-inator builds on over ten years of NSF support for the development of Syntern, a platform for deploying virtual internships that has been used in middle schools, high schools, informal science programs, and undergraduate education. In the current project, the researchers will recruit two waves of STEM content developers to expand their current core development network. A design research perspective will be used to examine the ways in which the developers interact with the components of the authorware and to document the influence of the virtual internships on student learning. The researchers will use a quantitative ethnographic approach to integrate qualitative data from surveys and interviews with the developers with their quantitative interactions with the authorware and with student use and products from pilot and field tests of the virtual internships. Data-mining and learning analytics will be used in combination with hierarchical linear modeling, regression techniques and propensity score matching to structure the quasi-experimental research design. The authorware and the multiple virtual internships will provide researchers, developers, and teachers a rich learning environment in which to explore and support students' learning of important college and career readiness content and disciplinary practices. The findings of the use of the authorware will inform STEM education about the important design characteristics for authorware that supports the work of STEM content and curriculum developers.

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