STEM
International STEM Students Podcasts: A student-centered approach in communicating the learning experiences during Covid
Bita Zaferanloo
Dept. of Chemistry & Biotechnology
Peter Marcato
Dept. of Media & Communications
Caslon Chua
Dept. of Computer Science & Software Engineering

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the international students and the international education sector hard. As the world emerges out of the pandemic, there is a lack of analysis on the pandemic's impact on the international education sector globally.
To help fill this gap and understand the impact, this project aims to understand the impact of he pandemic on the students and develop Swinburne students’ communication and technical skills utilising a multidisciplinary student-centered approach to play, risk and act as global citizens who initiate change.
Swinburne students will interview international STEM students to create International STEM Students Podcasts Archive. This is foster understanding of the impact among the students and promote a sense of belonginess which also provides insights on how to address the challenges and barriers. In addition, this activity is aligned with their assessments and contribute to the development of graduate attributes.
Resources
Shareable teaching and learning resources for this project coming soon!


Problem  
The current economic turmoil caused by COVID-19 has resulted in significant social and economic disruption, educational institutions have been forced to implement alternative teaching and learning approaches, including a total transition to online learning. However, undergraduate science units and degrees requires face-to-face practical and laboratory activities to have a better learning experience. STEM students and academics are faced with significant hurdles regarding delivery, learning, and assessment. Research suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has deeply impacted university STEM students. However, very few studies have attended to study the challenges that international STEM students experienced during Covid. 
As STEM undergraduate programs require a practical component, the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 crisis have left educators with a dilemma on how best to maintain student learning in the present circumstances. 
At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated university students’ mental health risk factors and other health concerns endangering students’ academic success. International students may have suffered additional loads of restriction due to many unique challenges relating to living abroad, adjusting to the host country’s culture and norms, language barriers, visa policies, discrimination, prejudice, financial support, finding a job and being away from essential social support systems, such as family and friends (Smith and Khawaja, 2011; Gallagher et al., 2020). Compared to 2019, the prevalence of major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder were 2 times and 1.5 times higher, respectively, among international students during the pandemic (Chirikov et al., 2020).  
While COVID-19 has stunned the world across various facets of life, the education sector, considered to have been significantly impacted, was perhaps one area best braced for a rapid change toward a digital world. Many universities across the world have been transitioning courses and curricula toward online learning, by developing networks and interactive digital platforms to allow the education of those from in isolation (Bao, 2020).  
Still a particular focus and thought needs to be given to the well-being and engaging of students mainly international students adjusting to online science-based teaching and learning. Perhaps this epidemic is a forecast of what may become a more frequent event in the modern VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity) global environment, and perhaps it has pushed education to become more aligned with modern technology and the future. 
An assessment of international STEM student engagement is vital to enhance the capacity of WIL educators and professional staff to implement work integrated learning with fist person evidence-based research to understand the international STEM student experience of engagement and crucially, lack of engagement. 

Overview  
To address the above problem, we developed the “International STEM Student Podcast” whereby students used Adobe Audition to produce and convert their recorded interviews with international STEM students into shareable podcasts. The project aimed to:  
•  Facilitate a student-centred approach where local students (preferably from media and communication) could interview the international STEM students to explore the challenges, barriers, engagement, failure and success factors that these students faced during Covid and remote learning in isolation in comparison (Consent form and control group will be considered). 
•  Critically evaluate international STEM student engagement and the impact of the WIL activities on belonging, retention, graduate outcomes, and self-assessment of employability skills including career management.  
•  Foster digital capabilities, critical thinking, understanding of diversity, teamwork, and communication skills – all essential employability skills for future career readiness.  
•  Empowering students to contribute to the first-person type of research to support international STEM student learning and engagement. 
•  Support science students and computing science in their assessments to apply the outcome of interview/podcasts in: 
            •  visualising the data as an infographic in one assessment in NPS20005 
            •  designing a digital prototype such as website or mobile application as project assessment in COS70008  
            •  creating a podcast about their experience in securing an internship role which is one of the assessments in ICT80004 
•  Scaffold students’ professional skills offering a series of Adobe workshops to provide the required resources and training to lead this challenge/assessment 

Emergent Outcomes  
The outcome of the project resulted in equipping universities with effective mechanisms for identifying, developing, publicizing, and embedding first person research-based practice to deliver an equitable and inclusive student experience. While at the same time, it resulted in building quality WIL experiences in collaboration with institutions, government, and industry. 
This project leveraged the strength of several partnerships: 
       •  Our industry partner Insurance Australia Group (IAG) 
       •  Community Organisation: The Royal Society of Victoria 
       •  Adobe team and coaches at Swinburne: Adobe training to create podcast, infographic, website, and mobile application.  
       •  Study Melbourne 
       •  STEM Sisters 
       •  Representatives’ academics from the cross-unit teams including science, computing science and media communication. 
The workshops and project were promoted as events though the CareerHub and shared with the STEMM clubs, academics, selected units, and social media.  
International STEM Students Podcasts built on previous Work Integrated Learning initiatives – They are now annual competitions at Swinburne:   
       •  “Start Talking” – students pitch the STEM idea to an industry partner (IAG) addressing a real-world problem.  
       •  “Design for Change” – students design and pitch a start-up concept with a STEMM prototype to inspire community and contribute to industry.  
       •  “STEM infographic” – students create an infographic visualising their STEM data with sustainability impact 
And successful The New Colombo Plan Mobility Program Round 2022: 
       •  STEMM Communication in Indonesia to Increase Women’s Participation 
       •  Shaping STEMM Futures in Malaysia  
       •  Cybersecurity Beyond Borders 
This project also scaffolded essential digital literacies skills and graduate attributes across assessments and co-curriculum activities, which were also developed within the total university experience, encouraging students to reflect on the broader purpose of their university education.   

Key Learnings 
The data from this project supported students in the creation of an infographic where they visualised the problem statement and solution. The outcome of this first-person research supported the pedagogic strategies which looked addressing the challenges and engagement of international STEM students. Moving forward, the generated data could also help the computing science to design a digital prototype tool as part of their assessments and contribute to critical design thinking of an engaging WIL educational tool to attract international STEM students to study in Australia and enhance their learning experiences and interaction leading them to achieve their goals and success. With the support of industry and community organisation, we are hoping to publicise and showcase this research-intensive project. 

Digital Literacies
We believe play, risk and failure are central to engendering new thinking in our students. In this project, our aims were to support International STEM students as well as local STEM students to:  
Apply their strengths (scientific knowledge - Complex problem solving - Critical thinking)   
Learn new skills (Creative mindset - Adaptability - Innovation)   
Play and risk to be empowered with the required skills to support Swinburne students 
Facilitate the stronger connection and extend the networking between local students and international students  
This project aimed to increase the digital and technological literacy skills of the participants. We sought to use the new Adobe applications to create International STEM Students Podcasts. This project was led students and its outcomes were used in the assessment projects of selected units such as NPS20005, COS70008 and ICT80004.  
Introducing students from other disciplines (Science, Engineering, and IT) to skills such as Adobe Audition, Adobe XD, Adobe Express and Adobe Portfolio helped to expand their skills, introducing them to the data visualising and digital prototyping process. To equip students with the necessary technical skills, learning activities were designed around the Adobe programs during workshops, which focused on increasing design skills and knowledge and is integrated into the workshops to increase design skills and knowledge of the design process to further build on skills already developed through their study. These skills will ensure quality of podcasts and digital prototypes and allow a much greater level of communication when working in multi-disciplinary teams, further strengthening employability.  
This project also aimed to support international students to feel a greater sense of belonging with the University, academics, and their local peers. Communication of the outcomes of podcasts either as an infographic or digital prototyping supported both international STEM students as well as local students to identify and recognise problems that they have experienced during Covid. The outcomes of the interviews supported both local and international students to share the innovative ideas and also created an opportunity for students to receive feedback from educational expertise. Their voices were also publicised by us to support digital literacies and hyflex learning for international students. 
The strong connection between students is the key success for this project where students help each other to critically thinking about the problems, learn and develop new skills.  
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