By Jeremy Craig, Communications Manager, Office of the Provost
A Georgia State University experiential, project-based, and interdisciplinary learning pilot program is yielding promising results for student achievement following its initial semesters.
The Experiential Project-based Interdisciplinary Curriculum (EPIC) program was launched in fall 2019 to provide first-year students an opportunity to learn by doing in long-term projects that begin in core curriculum/general education courses, such as English composition or introduction to American government (political science 1101).
Over time, students learn new skills such as data science, geographic information systems, project management and media production en route to completing project tasks. Ultimately, the project hopes to improve the experience of these foundational courses by showing students how their courses connect to one another.
“It is really exciting in that this is more similar to what students will experience outside of college,” said Brennan Collins, EPIC’s program director. “It’s more than, ‘read this, and here’s your assignment.’ Students have to figure things out while encountering unfamiliar problems and have to learn how to solve them quickly, all while working on teams.”
Some of the project labs include:
- Pollitik, a public opinion lab where students working with Professor Ryan Carlin found fascinating results in analyzing public opinion surveys regarding international leaders and whether the public in their respective countries rally around leaders who contracted COVID-19. Click here to read the Washington Post article.
- Mapping Atlanta, aimed at public-facing mapping projects, including a mapping project of a UNESCO World Heritage Civil Rights Trail and an oral history map for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Museum.
- The Phoenix Project, using the MARTA Archaeological Collection of the Anthropology Department that contains artifacts and material remains found by university archaeologists during the transit system’s initial rail line construction in 1970s. Students learn about photography, 3D modeling, curation, geographic information systems, and more.
- Mediamaking and Mobility, which had students examine Atlanta’s street and transportation system, mobility, what communities were they designed for, and how communities were affected by transportation planning decisions. Students learn how to gather oral histories and perspectives from the community, while also learning media production and geography.
Results are preliminary, but EPIC shows promise to expand upon Georgia State’s efforts to lead in student success, even in the face of the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, unexpected at the program’s launch.
In the preliminary analysis, students in the EPIC group and in a non-EPIC group were matched carefully for 11 variables, including (but not limited to) age, gender, race, first-generation college student status, Pell Grants, high school grade point average (GPA), expected family contribution and other factors.
After examining the cumulative GPAs of both groups over two years at Georgia State, on average the EPIC group earned a GPA of 3.062, compared to a GPA of 2.726 among non-EPIC students. When Honors students are removed from the groups, that difference grows to over a half grade point.
Further, the analysis indicated that EPIC can help to solve a different student achievement problem: the likelihood of a student earning a D or F, or withdrawing from a course entirely, known in higher education statistics and research as a DFW.
DFW rates as a whole can be used to gauge how students may struggle with courses in the core curriculum. If students earn a DFW in these early, foundational courses, they ultimately may be less likely to progress to degree completion.
From the preliminary analysis, results indicate that EPIC mitigated DFWs among one of Georgia State’s critical student populations – first-generation college students.
EPIC and EPIC-affiliated faculty will continue to evaluate how Georgia State might apply EPIC in a scalable, broader manner across other core curriculum courses.
For fall 2021, a new EPIC lab will work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to digitize an exhibit on influenza. Other lab projects continue, including two project labs on the Perimeter College campuses connected to the university’s Prison Education Project.
EPIC is supported by a grant from The Teagle Foundation and the Office of the Provost at Georgia State. For more information about EPIC, its project labs and affiliated faculty, visit https://epic.gsu.edu.