Virtual Socialization in Engineering Education: Identifying the Impacts of a Socializer-Based Intervention on Second-Year Engineering Students

Kevin Sevilla

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    With student attrition in engineering most frequently occurring during the 2nd year due to perceptions of poor teaching and advising, curricular overload, and a lack of a sense of belonging, this study sought to address these concerns in a novel way through videos. This study was inspired by the success of existing on-campus mentoring services that enlist more advanced students to act as academic and cultural mentors, and sought to connect with students who may feel unwelcome or socially inhibited from attending similar services.On-campus support services have historically experienced service-level concerns with regards to overhead costs that have resulted in targeting specific audiences over restricted durations of time. Through these measures, both lack of awareness and social inhibition to attendance has resulted in some students not receiving the support that they need in order to succeed in engineering. To address this concern, this study developed and tested a video-based intervention on 2nd year students identified as ''at- risk-for-attrition'� through GPA and self-reported measures of belonging in engineering. The intervention involved 18 junior- and senior-level engineering students participating in videotaped interviews that were segmented by topic into 305 videos and posted to a private Vimeo channel. These videos acted as static virtual mentors for the study participants.To evaluate the impact of these videos, an exploratory case study was conducted with 13 ''at-risk- for-attrition'� participants that included 7 women and 6 men. The participants completed a pre- intervention interview concerning their current status in engineering, a reflection of their first year, and perceptions of on-campus support services. Participants were then asked to watch one hour of videos, keep a notebook of their experience, and record the date and time that each video was watched. Once completed, participants participated in a post-intervention interview concerning their video choices, reactions, and outcomes of the experience, and any affordances that they saw in the intervention tool.Drawing on expectancy-value theory, the results of this study yielded a model for how participants made their video selections, how they reacted to virtual mentors and interpreted their video content, and how these reactions led to collective identity beliefs and intentions to act on the advice provided. Additionally, participants highlighted some of the affordances of offering mentoring through static videos. Of particular importance was the perception of shared identity between participants and mentors as a precursor to impacting future intentions to act on their advice. The findings led to recommendations regarding the redefinition of desired mentor traits for at-risk-for-attrition students was discovered, and also, the potential for offering virtual mentoring as a proxy or precursor to attending on- campus services without the program- and student-level concerns hindering current offerings.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
    Place of PublicationAustralia
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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