Web Adventures Interactive: Innovative Online Activities as Effective Tools for Broadening Participation in Science

Web Adventures Interactive: Innovative Online Activities as Effective Tools for Broadening Participation in Science


This project will accomplish the exploratory groundwork needed to create Web Adventures Interactive (WAI), a set of interactive educational game websites, to study the effectiveness of the interactive features on science learning, motivation, and interest in science careers. This project is funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers. The Web Adventures Interactive will replace the original Web Adventures developed through federal grants in the late 90s to mid-2010s. The unprecedented need for virtual science tools makes it vital to redevelop Web Adventures using new technologies and new interactive features. Over the years, Web Adventures have served millions of students and teachers from across the globe with overarching goals of (1) increasing students' science and health knowledge, and (2) inspiring science-related careers. The transformed version, WAI, provides a great opportunity to study the effectiveness of these new features and to conduct fine-grained new investigations.  In addition to preserving the original Web Adventures goals, WAI's overarching goal is to increase three student outcomes: (1) science learning (forensics, microbiology, and neuroscience), (2) motivation for science fields, and (3) awareness and interest in science careers through new and innovative features?including social interaction and engagement, teacher/parent monitoring and assessment of student progress, and further customization options for teachers/parents. A full redevelopment of Web Adventures requires some initial work to be performed including the creation of an archival website (Phase 1) and design and testing of the new infrastructure (Phase 2) with several additional innovative features including social interaction, and detailed analytics regarding game-play characteristics. The new infrastructure will be beta-tested with at least 1,000 middle and high school students to investigate (1) how WAI impacts the three student outcomes; (2) how students' behavior (time-spent, sequence followed, self-exploring versus guided, answering prompted questions etc.) relate to the three student outcomes; and (3) how new features of WAI (i.e., social interactive features and teacher/parent monitoring and connectivity tools) affect behavior and impact the three student outcomes. Students will be given pre-and post-surveys (for motivation and career interest) and assessments (for science learning) that will provide research data. Data analytics and data-mining will also be conducted and included in data analysis. These empirically-tested interactive educational games will be freely and publicly available on a website hosted by the Rice University School Mathematics Project. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.


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2020 - 2022



William Marsh Rice University Houston, TX

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