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STEM Education for Workforce Development through Online Contextualized Training

Arefeh Mohammadi, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The U.S. workforce is increasingly comprised of older adults, women and minorities who lack basic skills and are unable to acquire these skills through traditional educational and training programs. New approaches are needed to provide effective training to the adult learner and flexible support for nontraditional students who must balance work-life demands with limited educational opportunities. Contextualized teaching and learning (CTL) blends both basic skills and occupational training together in environments that allow students to relate subject matter to real-world situations. Virtual CTL environments can be created to better engage students, provide immediate performance feedback, reduce training time and improve accessibility. The goal of this research is to determine whether CTL improves learning outcomes, particularly among older adults, women and minorities. Specific objectives include: • Comparing the effectiveness of contextualized instruction between an experimental group exposed to contextualized instruction and a control group not exposed to contextualized instruction. • Comparing the effectiveness of contextualized instruction among demographic groups within an experimental group exposed to contextualized instruction. To determine the effectiveness of CTL, the Tooling U™ curriculum and learning management system (LMS) was used. This intervention consisted of modules with basic skills remediation blended with interactive labs, and virtual reality exercises. Of 1,021 total students, a non-random population of 342 participants was chosen for study, including 75 exposed to the CTL intervention (experimental group) and 267 not exposed to the CTL intervention (control group). Learning outcomes, defined by test scores, completed credit hours, course completions and earned credentials were compared between CTL and non-CTL groups, and, between demographic subsets within the CTL group. The composition of underrepresented groups, including older adults (age ≥ 45), women and minorities, were 2–3 time greater in the CTL group compared to the non-CTL group. Overall, students exposed to CTL achieved higher rates of credentialing (54.7%) when compared to students not exposed to contextualized instruction (19.5%). Within the CTL group, significant improvements between total average pre-tests (60.0%) and total average post-tests (83.4%) were observed. This research informs administrators and educators to use more of contextualized content for diverse student population of today’s community colleges. Existing online contextualized programs that are available can be applied in colleges.

Subject Area

Education|Adult education|Engineering|Educational technology|Science education

Recommended Citation

Mohammadi, Arefeh, "STEM Education for Workforce Development through Online Contextualized Training" (2018). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10844862.