Lit Review: The Virtual Scientist: Connecting University Scientists to the K-12 Classroom through Videoconferencing

Lit Review: This is a post in a series focusing on the research studies on videoconferencing.

McCombs, G. B., Ufnar, J. A., & Shepherd, V. L. (2007). The Virtual Scientist: Connecting University Scientists to the K-12 Classroom through Videoconferencing. Advances in Physiology Education, 31(1), 62-66.

Author: McCombs, Glenn B.; Ufnar, Jennifer A.; Shepherd, Virginia L.
Title of article:
The Virtual Scientist: Connecting University Scientists to the K-12 Classroom through Videoconferencing.
Publication year: 2007
Database source: Originally found in ERIC, but the full text is available through the journal.
Name of journal: Advances in Physiology Education
My Codes: VCContentProviders

Main Point: This article is essentially an evaluation of Vanderbilt University’s CSO videoconference programs. It suggests that videoconferencing can bridge the gap between formal textbook learning and real world science. It shows that many students do not get to talk to real scientists at school and videoconferencing allows for increased interaction with scientists. Details reports are given of the evaluations that students, teachers, and scientists complete after the experience.

Theoretical Framework/References: No theoretical framework was used, but the article references Amirian’s lit review, Cavenaugh’s meta-analysis, Greenberg’s lit review, Heath’s lit review, Scott Merrick’s Innovate article, and some articles on the “no significant difference” phenomenon. Sorry, no links at the moment, but I’ll be adding blog notes on these articles in the future.

Methods, Sample, Variables/Case: The article describes the program in detail. It also includes survey data on future participation and scientist accessibility, responses regarding technical issues, and responses regarding the impact of videoconferencing. Interestingly, this is the first article I’ve found that surveyed the experts who were presenting the videoconference (in a content provider situation).

Findings: Overall the experts, students and teachers were satisfied with the experience and would participate again.
Author/Audience: The audience is readers of the journal Advances in Physiology Education, so basically scientific educators, probably more at the university level.

In tiny print at the bottom of the article, it says: “The costs of publication of this article were defrayed in part by the payment
of page charges. The article must therefore be hereby marked “advertisement” in accordance with 18 U.S.C. Section 1734 solely to indicate this fact.” Very interesting.

p. 65. The most successful VCs are the ones where the teachers have prepared the students and the students have prepared questions ahead of time to ask.

There’s a lot of detail on how they organize and run the program that would be interesting to other content providers getting started.


About Janine Lim

Janine Lim is an Instructional Technology Consultant at the Berrien Regional Education Service Agency in Berrien Springs, MI. Her main focus is on distance learning via videoconferencing and online learning. She also trains teachers in technology integration in the classroom and maintains the SouthwestNet Distance Learning web site. Janine is a past President of TWICE, a Michigan K12 videoconferencing organization, and maintains the TWICE website. She is also the TWICE Read Around the Planet Verification Coordinator for 2007. She also writes a regular column for the MACUL newsletter and was a member of the MACUL board of directors 2001-2003.
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