Broadening Participation in Online STEM Education (2016-2017)


According to the World Bank, “One billion people, or 15 percent of the world’s population, experience some form of disability…. One-fifth of the estimated global total, or between 110 million and 190 million people, experience significant disabilities.” Persons with significant disabilities, as a group, often struggle with limited opportunities for adequate education, lower rates of employment and a resulting lower socioeconomic status than the average experienced by the general population. Online learning promises to expand access to education and subsequent employment to persons with disabilities in all areas of higher education including science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). However, literature suggests that this group of learners continues to experience barriers to participation in online learning.

Project Description

This project has grown from a previous Bass Connections project team, Coursera and the Future of MOOCs. Partnering with researchers at Stanford University and the University of Michigan, we are investigating the use of massive open online courses by persons who identify as having a disability and exploring benefits and barriers experienced by learners on our current open online education platform.

Student team members will learn about the process for research with human subjects as well as build practical skills in both quantitative and qualitative research methods. All students will need to attend weekly hour-long group meetings in addition to significant independent research time, and will have the opportunity to work with faculty team leaders to develop and pursue their own independent research questions related to the overall project.

The scope of the overall project provides a large population of potential research participants, and previous students working on similar types of projects have been able to acquire a large amount of data on their area of interest in a reasonable amount of time, allowing time for data analysis, generation of conclusions and presentation of results. Projects can be for independent study or paid as work study, if eligible.

Anticipated Outcomes

Team members will develop and execute independent projects related to the theme with the goal of contributing the results of their research to the body of generalizable knowledge via presentation and publication.


Fall 2016 – Spring 2017

Team Outcomes to Date

Exploring the Motivations Behind MOOC Enrollment (Erin Locey, Dorian Canelas)

Broadening Participation in Online Learning: Business Perspective of MOOC Providers (Alice Silberstein, Dorian Canelas)


Broadening Participation in Online STEM Education

See earlier related team, Coursera and the Future of MOOCs (2015-2016).

Faculty/Staff Team Members

Dorian Canelas, Trinity - Chemistry*
Mine Cetinkaya-Rundel, Trinity - Statistical Science*
Benjamin Cooke, Trinity - Mathematics and Academic Resource Center
Kun Li, Duke Libraries - Center for Instructional Technology
Kimberly Manturuk, Duke Libraries - Center for Instructional Technology
Jorgianne Robinson, Trinity - Psychology and Neuroscience

Undergraduate Team Members

Dalton George
Tyler Johnson
Erin Locey
Alice Silberstein
Radhika Srivastava

Community Team Members

Multiple Contributors, University of Michigan
Multiple Contributors, Sanford University

* denotes team leader