Experiments in Transmedia: Studying Techniques for Increasing STEM Content Acquisition by Young Adults

September 1st, 2015 - August 31st, 2019 | PROJECT

As part of its overall strategy to enhance learning in informal environments, the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program funds innovative resources for use in a variety of settings. This project will study why (or why not) young career adults, aged 18-35 engage with the PBS NewsHour science content via broadcast and/or online avenues to advance their STEM knowledge and skills. This age group has shifted away from viewing traditional broadcast news media and increasingly looks to social media channels for science content. Multiple layers of STEM digital content delivered across multiple platforms (including social media) will be used to identify the attributes that engage and motivate these 18-35 year olds. Deliverables include 12 broadcast segments each year with STEM research coverage and a range of transmedia efforts (e.g. additional formats distributed via Instagram, Vine, YouTube, etc.) for testing with the target audience. A complementary component of the project will be an apprenticeship program in which each year five college age students from journalism schools join the professional reporters at the NewsHour to produce STEM content using new and innovative strategies engage to 18-35 year olds. The PBS NewsHour broadcast is currently viewed by 1.4 million adults each night and the website has 2.6 million unique visitors each month. The research will attempt to define the learning ecologies of 18-35 year olds using psychographic profiles and case studies to illustrate the range of science learners including those in underrepresented groups. The first research component uses a quantitative approach to assess the reaction of the early career adults to the 12 STEM broadcast segments in their original form and after repackaging for social media. A control group audience will watch the original broadcast of each STEM segment and respond to an online questionnaire that will establish how viewers use and/or pass on STEM content and to whom. The test audience will view the content that has been repackaged and presented on a different media platform responding to the same online questionnaire and allowing comparisons of the two groups. The second research component will focus on the college-age journalism apprentices and use participatory action research. The apprentices will collect data about their experiences and reflect on their contributions to STEM reporting. The third research component will be an ethnographic study of the post-production and editorial teams at the PBS NewsHour using focus groups to elicit feedback and evaluate their metacognitive thinking about how to produce stories for early career adults. Data will be collected and analyzed from three groups: early career adults 18-35 years of age; journalism apprentices; and the PBS NewsHour editorial teams. Overall the research will provide new knowledge about producing and distributing digital STEM media that engages and impacts early career adults.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products

Poster - Experiments in Transmedia: Studying Techniques for Increasing STEM Content Acquisition by Young Adults
Video - Reaching early career adults with science information
Opioid Epidemic News Consumption
Understanding Early-Career Science News Consumers

Team Members

Patti Parson, Principal Investigator, Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association
John Fraser, Co-Principal Investigator, New Knowledge Organization Ltd.


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ISE/AISL
Award Number: 1516347
Funding Amount: 1336857


Audience: Adults | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: General STEM | Social science and psychology
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Broadcast Media | Media and Technology | Websites | Mobile Apps | Online Media