As you settle back into the office after the long weekend, catch up on what's happened in STEM with our weekly news roundup.
Math, Science Popular Until Students Realize They're Hard, Wall Street Journal
Students starting, then quitting STEM majors is not a new problem. But this shortage is frequently framed as enough students simply not being interested in STEM in the first place. A new study has found a more nuanced take on it: Many students in the study are initially extremely interested in pursuing a math and science degree. However, once they begin course work, they found it much harder than anticipated, and found that good grades weren't a natural consequence of hard work. Students then become discouraged and quit.
This has implications for both K-12 and higher education. Obviously, stronger preparation in K-12 will help students confront the mountain of work in Bio and Chem 101, and that is cited by the researchers as a key deterrant for many students. But greater support at the secondary level would also help students navigate the heavy courseload and the grading format of college courses. To create more successful STEM graduates, we need to work from both ends.
Should Colleges Charge Engineers More Than English Majors?, The Atlantic
Florida made waves last year with its proposal to charge students less for 'job-friendly majors,' like STEM degrees. One of the biggest criticisms of the plan was that STEM majors often cost the school up to five times as much as a social-science or liberal-arts degree, and that some schools actually charge more for costlier programs, which are often the STEM programs. Now, a working paper out of the University of Michigan examined the minority of schools who charge a premium for business, nursing, or engineering majors. The results may bolster Florida's case.
The study authors found that students' interest in an engineering degree dropped when they were charged more, despite the potential future earnings. It also found that, in the case of engineering degrees, Pell Grant recipients were the most sensitive to variations in price. Simply put, charging more for tuition in engineering could dampen initiatives to create a more diverse engineering workforce.
The results don't endorse the Florida plan, but certainly provide food for thought. It's clear that degree price does -- as it should -- play a part in students' career path, and it's up to policymakers to find a tenable balance between schools and students.
A University's Offer of Credit for a MOOC Gets No Takers, The Chronice
MOOCs have been a fascinating technological add to higher education in the last few years, as they've provoked discussions on the value of a degree and how to measure learning. Colorado State University's decision to charge a nominal fee -- $89 for a credit, well under the thousand students are typically charged -- was closely watched. Now, it seems to have failed: No students have signed up for the course. Providers are learning more about the 'typical' MOOC student as online courses proliferate, and it appears they are not providing the hoped-for access. Most MOOC students, for instance, already have degrees. Watching how MOOCs develop over the next few years -- particularly whether they're able to grant students from low-income backgrounds access -- will be very interesting indeed.
5 Steps to STEM Effectiveness, Huffington Post
Here's a quick guide to how to implement a strong STEM program at the school level. The suggestions are common sense, and can only be underlined during the implementation stage of STEM school development.
7 Year Old Dreams of Mars, So NASA Sent Him This, Mashable
Plenty of young kids dream of being astronauts, but few end up writing to NASA for advice. This 7-year-old did, and the response that he got from NASA is pretty darn cute.