OMSCS leads not just in online education but research in the area, and students are at the forefront of it.
After OMSCS launched in 2014, online education data only grew by the year but wasn’t being analyzed. Sensing a research avenue, OMSCS Executive Director David Joyner founded LucyLabs in 2016 to meet the growing demand for online education studies and give the program’s students the ability to engage in academic research.
“OMSCS students are incredibly well-qualified and passionate and have great ideas, but lack spare time to pursue the great ideas they already have,” said Joyner.
In LucyLabs, students and instructors work on the most compelling educational technology problems and can publish their research. This enables students to learn research skills with the benefit of professional guidance and course credit.
“Being given the opportunity to perform substantive research work has been a very important part of my OMSCS experience, as working through the process from design through IRB approvals and authoring of conference papers is unfortunately not part of the typical OMSCS course work,” said OMSCS student Ellie Shivers.
A computer science degree is ideal for pursuing online research because many companies are working with similar parameters, such as asynchronous communication and a shared project management channel. This makes the chance for research collaborations with companies and students across the university easier.
Since its founding, LucyLabs has published 47 papers on everything from automatically giving grades and feedback on open-ended assessments in support of rapid revision to examining the myriad challenges with leveraging online learning in Nigeria. Of those 47 papers, 21 have been co-authored by students and 15 have had a student as the primary author, including recipients of the best paper award at the Learning with MOOCs and Learning @ Scale conferences.
Ultimately, LucyLabs is about letting students see the real-world impact of their research. Shivers is currently evaluating the effectiveness of at scale continuing medical education course material surrounding the transgender/nonbinary community from a social perspective.
“I am passionate about social research around marginalized communities as it relates to healthcare technology, particularly with the ever-growing focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning in healthcare,” Shivers said. “I love being afforded the opportunity to perform research that I hope may one day have tangible value in the day to day lives of people by improving patient outcomes in various capacities.”