Learning in a Crisis: Online Skill Building Workshop Addresses Immediate Pandemic Needs and Offers Possibilities for Future Trainings

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Michael Brudzinski , Shannon Fasola, Michael Hubenthal, Em Schnorr


The COVID-19 pandemic led to the suspension of many summer research opportunities for STEM students. In response, the IRIS Education and Outreach program, in collaboration with Miami University, offered a free online Seismology Skill Building Workshop to increase undergraduates' knowledge, skills, self-efficacy, and interest in observational seismology and scientific computing. Registrations were received from 760 undergraduates representing 60 different countries. U.S. participants consisted of 59% women and 29% from populations traditionally underrepresented in the geosciences. The workshop design consisted of a tailored Linux virtual machine, regular webinars, a Slack workspace, tutorial-style active e-learning assignments, and an optional final project. Every other week for 12 weeks, a module with ~6 assignments was released to build skills with Linux, GMT, SAC, webservices, seismic network processing, Python, ObsPy, and Jupyter notebooks. A final module focused on competitiveness for graduate school, summer internships, and professional jobs. Evaluation of the workshop relied on registration data, pre-/post- surveys, and performance data from the learning management system. 440 completed at least one assignment, 224 completed at least 80% of the assignments, and 191 completed all 35 assignments, significantly higher than most comparable large-scale, open-access courses. Participants invested ~6 hours per week and averaged a score of 88% on assignments. We identified >60% normalized gain in scientific computing skills. There is evidence the inclusive design of the workshop was able to attract and retain a diverse population. However, some additional investigation is needed to ensure benefits were evenly experienced. Regardless of the degree of completion, participants perceived the workshop quite positively: on average 96% described it as high to very high quality, 83% satisfied to very satisfied with their experience, and 70% very likely to recommend to peers. We identify future directions for running a second iteration of the workshop, including strategies to continue broadening participation and improving retention.




Computer Sciences, Earth Sciences, Education, Geophysics and Seismology, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning


education, undergraduate, training, scientific computing, online


Published: 2021-01-28 11:53


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:

Data Availability (Reason not available):
The data was collected as part of IRB 2428. Due to the nature of this research, participants of this study did not agree for their individual data to be shared publicly, so supporting data is not available.

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