The Boyer Report (Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in Research Universities, "Reinventing Undergraduate Education; A Blueprint for America's Research Universities," 1998) identified three challenges that still permeate many public research universities: the need to start students in research activities earlier, providing quality research experiences for more students, and creating experiences that can be delivered to increasing numbers of transfer students. The second America COMPETES Act (January 2011) urged that undergraduates be included in standard NSF grants. However, increasing participation in early undergraduate research continues to be a challenge at many institutions of higher education. This project is developing a collaborative approach to increasing early undergraduate participation in significant research activities. This is being accomplished through courses and programs designed to teach general research skills, rather than only engaging students in specific disciplinary research activities. By focusing on "research oriented" or "research skills" experiences, more students can be economically included early in their undergraduate studies. The project is a partnership comprised of Washington State University, the University of Central Florida, and the University of Alabama, with faculty members from the University of Wisconsin-Madison participating in an advisory role. The partners are adapting each others' existing research skills courses (one per institution, three in total). All three courses are being made available to students at each partner institution. The three models are: - A faculty led boot camp short course, running one week in the summer as an intensive program (developed originally at WSU) - A peer mentored short course for transfer students just prior to the beginning of the academic year (developed originally at UCF) - A semester long seminar course that meets during the academic year using asynchronous delivery of lecture material (developed originally at Wisconsin).
The intellectual merit of this proposal is increased by an ongoing, comprehensive assessment of the effectiveness and cost of these programs at three universities, as undertaken by a centralized evaluation team. The assessment is addressing the following questions: - Do these three skills programs increase the number of students participating in undergraduate research while maintaining the quality of existing experiences? - Do skills programs decrease the "incubation period" of new undergraduate researchers in the laboratory and increase faculty participation campus-wide? - What are the costs and benefits of implementing sustainable research-oriented teaching and training modules at three public research universities? This information is of potential value for institutions considering efforts to institutionalize or grow their undergraduate research programs.