N.C. A&T Researchers Receive $200K to Study Psychosocial Determinants of Successful Remote Learning

07/07/2020 College of Health and Human Sciences

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (July 7, 2020) – The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a $200,000 grant to an interdisciplinary team at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University to study the psychosocial determinants of successful remote learning among students from N.C. A&T and other public HBCUs. The faculty team consists of investigators with complementary expertise: lead principal investigator Adrienne Aiken Morgan, Ph.D. (psychology), Anna Lee, Ph.D. (psychology), Stephanie Teixeira-Poit, Ph.D. (social work and sociology), Jeannette Wade, Ph.D. (social work and sociology), Smriti Shrestha, Ph.D. (statistician, nursing), and Christopher Doss, Ph.D. (electrical and computer engineering).

This study is in response to the COVID-19 disruptions that prompted transitions to remote learning in early spring and continued in the summer. Elements of remote learning are expected in subsequent semesters to ensure social distancing necessary to prevent spread of COVID-19 among students and faculty. The funded study seeks to understand the risk factors for college students and develop effective interventions to prevent disruptions in remote learning success. Addressing these challenges is urgent and will ensure these students are not left behind.

“COVID-19 has laid bare the disparities in access to quality education. This NSF support will help us understand how the lived experiences of African American students intersect with their learning under highly disruptive conditions,” said Lenora Campbell, Ph.D., dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences. “The funding from NSF will go a step further and allow Dr. Aiken Morgan and her team to devise a solution for sustained learning, despite experiencing psychosocial risk factors making learning difficult.”

Existing research shows that social aspects of race and class predict health and education outcomes.  Public health crises, like COVID-19, disproportionately impact African Americans, low-income Americans and individuals with physical and psychosocial risk factors. This disparate impact has been linked to mechanisms like poor baseline health and environmental factors that make it difficult to adhere to social distancing needs. National education-related disparities show similar patterns across those sociodemographic groups. They have unequal access to computers, electronic devices and internet service. Additionally, they encounter higher instances of barriers, such as neighborhood violence and hunger, and greater concerns around stress and coping.

To better understand the correlations between psychosocial risk factors and remote learning success in times of crisis, the research team will conduct a mixed-methods study of A&T students. They will administer an online survey to collect data on various metrics including sociodemographic characteristics, experience with COVID-19, attitudes and behaviors in response to COVID-19, perceived stress and coping, depression, family violence perpetration and victimization, food insecurity and self-efficacy and familiarity with computers and technology.

The team members will facilitate interviews with randomly selected survey respondents to contextualize quantitative findings and uncover additional barriers and promoters. Survey data will be analyzed using regression modeling, and interview data will be analyzed using content analyses. They will triangulate survey and interview data by comparing and contrasting findings to develop a comprehensive understanding of psychosocial risk factors that impact remote learning success. The outcomes will inform development of a mobile application to engage these students and connect them to resources needed to sustain their learning in disruptive conditions.

The study will inform future policies and prevention strategy development to better prepare for future pandemics that make remote and online learning necessary for all students. Additionally, it will produce insights that may be applied more generally to transition to online learning for HBCU students, and students from similar backgrounds. This research will aid intervention development by identifying factors impacting student success under extreme disruptive conditions.

Media Contact Information: jicrockett@ncat.edu

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