Undergraduate Research Reports: Riya Manimaran on Hybrid Learning

30 May, 2023

Undergraduate Research Reports: Riya Manimaran on Hybrid Learning

We're so pleased to provide undergraduate research opportunities! This past semester, Riya Manimaran worked with Meg Everett on Hybrid Learning Environments, an existing partnership between the East Bay Collaborative for Underserved Children (ECUC) and the UC Berkeley School of Education. Read about Riya's experience below!

Throughout my second semester of sophomore year as a Data Science undergraduate student here, I have had the honor of experiencing the Berkeley Center for New Media 2023 Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Prior to this opportunity, I was determined to gain some formal experience in research and learn how to apply the data analysis skills I had been learning in my classes to a project with real-life applications. Thus, with a little research, I came across the BCNM website and immediately parsed through the undergraduate research opportunities. While every project listed was incredibly interesting, I was particularly drawn to the “Hybrid Learning Project”.

This project sought to explore the nuances of hybrid education and how a virtual tutoring experience could holistically be improved/optimized, through the use of qualitative data analysis via UC Berkeley students who were enrolled in an education class. From the summary alone, I immediately resonated with the project. I felt that my experience being a student and a mentor during the pandemic in the thick of hybrid/virtual education really allowed me to connect with the project's central goals. Not only was the topic familiar to me, but it was a cause I genuinely cared about. Therefore, I applied to this particular project, eager to hear back.

The entire interview and onboarding process then passed by in a flash. Upon receiving my fellowship certificate and stipend, my mentor, Meg Everett, and I immediately began to work. In order to ensure that I was qualified for conducting the research, I received a certification in Group 2 Social and Behavioral Research Investigators, issued by CITI Programs. The entire process allowed me to learn some of the most important, core values of conducting research with human subjects.

Following this certification, Meg and I then established a schedule of weekly check-in meetings, which served to keep me on track and updated with cumulative tasks. With Meg’s guidance and some of my own research, I parsed through credible resources on a multitude of niche topics and methods of virtual education, performing a literature review. In retrospect, this task, although the first, ended up being one of the most insightful components of my experience. Our main objective was to collect student evaluations of their virtual tutoring experiences and determine the core problems that tutors faced. Thus, over the course of the semester, I extracted core issues virtual tutors faced via a Google form they filled out with their weekly experiences. This form of analysis allowed me to learn how to work with cumulative data, take advantage of all of the resources of the platforms I used, and draw upon what was learned from the literature review to make conclusive recommendations.

Upon completion of the fellowship, I can confidently say that this experience has left me with a more advanced understanding of how to work with large amounts of data and traverse through the entire research process. I owe a great deal to my mentor, Meg, for her guidance, patience, and complete understanding that she had shown me throughout my time as a fellow! Therefore, to anyone considering applying to a BCNM Research fellowship, my advice to you would be to choose a project that you feel passionate about and take advantage of every growth opportunity. Good luck!