Complicating the Digital Divide among First-Gen College Students: How Covid-19 Impacted Academic and Career Persistence

Just Tech Covid-19 Rapid-Response Grant – Fall 2020

Abstract

Due to the disruptive nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, first-generation (first-gen) undergraduate college students have experienced significant changes in how they learn, engage, and receive support from their academic institutions. First-generation students are likely to bear the ‘brunt’ of Covid-19 repercussions with a lack of access to university resources such as on-campus computers and wireless technology, exacerbating the digital divide in higher education amongst students in rural and low-income communities. Our research goals are to (a) identify the influence of Covid-19 on the digital divide, which disproportionately impacts first-gen college students at minority-serving institutions, and (b) to investigate to what extent their academic and career persistence are impacted by the digital divide during the pandemic. Data will be collected using a mixed-methods approach that includes an online survey and follow-up focus groups. Descriptive and inferential statistics will be used to identify the characteristics of the students and the impact of Covid-19 on the students’ family/personal life; efficacy and satisfaction with university support services; adaptations to curriculum and instructional changes; and changes in academic and career intentions. Our research helps to address the social, political, and economic inequality that affects first-generation college students at minority-serving institutions.

Research Team

Principal Investigators

Olivia D. Johnson

Assistant Professor, University of Houston

  • Bio ▾

    Dr. Olivia Johnson is an assistant professor in retailing and consumer science in human development and consumer sciences in the College of Technology at the University of Houston. She is committed to teaching, research, and mentorship of undergraduate and graduate students within and outside her discipline. Dr. Johnson has taught a wide range of courses in consumer behavior, retailing, merchandising, research methods, and consumer psychology. Her research focuses on political consumerism primarily as it relates to the networks created by connective movements on social media, as well as the intersection of consumption and cultural subgroups such as millennial and Latinx consumers. She has presented her research at a variety of conferences and has been published in journals such as the Journal of Consumer Behavior, Social Media and Society, International Journal of Retail and Distribution Management, and Computers in Human Behavior. Dr. Johnson’s service to the academy focuses on decreasing the gap for underrepresented and marginalized students in their persistence toward academic study.

Tomika Greer

Assistant Professor, University of Houston

  • Bio ▾

    Dr. Tomika W. Greer is assistant professor of human resource development (HRD) and Undergraduate HRD Program Coordinator in the College of Technology at University of Houston (UH). She earned a BS in chemical engineering, MEd in Instructional Technology, and PhD in HRD from Texas A&M University. Before graduate school, she worked for 10 years as a management consultant and training and development professional in several organizations.

    In her research, Dr. Greer uses a social justice lens to study postsecondary education/training, job transitions, and work-life integration in order to help women and marginalized groups manage and develop thriving and sustainable careers. She is particularly interested in the effects of Covid-19 on these aspects of career development for marginalized people whose communities were initially hardest hit by the pandemic. Her research is published in Human Resource Development Review, New Horizons in Adult Education and Human Resource Development, Advances in Developing Human Resources, New Directions in Adult and Continuing Education, Journal of Applied Instructional Design, and International Journal of Project Management. Dr. Greer is the recipient of several awards for research and teaching excellence. She is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Academy of Human Resource Development (AHRD).

Barbara Stewart

Professor, University of Houston

  • Bio ▾

    Dr. Barbara L. Stewart has served as faculty member and administrator for more than 30 years as director, associate dean, chair, and coordinator. She earned the rank of full professor in 2004 at the University of Houston as well as at the University of Louisiana in 1983. Additionally, she has taught at Louisiana State University, San Diego State University, City College of Chicago/University of Maryland (European programs for the military), Palomar College, and San Diego City Colleges. Dr. Stewart earned an EdD in curriculum and foundations from Brigham Young University (1979), an MS in consumer and home economics from Utah State University (1974), and a BA in clothing and textiles from Brigham Young University (1973). Dr. Stewart’s recent research endeavors focus on the learning/teaching enterprise, especially with regard to online technologies. She has authored more than 240 scholarly publications, texts, and presentations. Her research ($1.1 million) and fee-based ($30 million) funding efforts total in excess of $31 million. Dr. Stewart has served in numerous professional leadership roles, including currently as chair of the Assembly of Higher Education, American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS), founding member of the AAFCS Leadership Academy, and AAFCS Leadership Council.

Holly Hutchins

Professor, University of Houston

  • Bio ▾

    Dr. Holly M. Hutchins, PhD, is a professor of human resource development and department chairwoman in the College of Technology at the University of Houston—a Carnegie Tier One and MSI University. Her research expertise is in training transfer, program evaluation, and faculty professional development and leadership. Dr. Hutchins is also a co-principal investigator on a five-year National Science Foundation ADVANCE institutional transformation grant (Center for Advancing UH Faculty Success), where she co-leads efforts to increase the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women and women of color faculty in STEM-related disciplines.

    Dr. Hutchins’s research has appeared in Human Resource Development Quarterly, Performance Improvement Quarterly, Human Resource Management, Human Resource Development Review, and Journal of Workplace Learning. Her research and teaching has been recognized through awards, as a Fulbright Specialist Scholar (Scotland), in interviews through media outlets, and from professional research associations.

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