STEM Webcams as Tools for Learning and Education

January 1st, 2021 - December 31st, 2022 | PROJECT

This Pilot and Feasibility study will build foundational knowledge about basic aspects of STEM webcams in the United States (US) from the perspectives of both practitioners and viewers. Thousands of webcams available to the public are operated by STEM organizations, such as zoos, museums, and government agencies. Learning theory suggests that STEM webcams, especially those with accompanying interpretive tools, have the potential to offer rich informal learning opportunities. However, yet no research has quantified any aspect (cognitive, behavioral, or emotional) of viewer outcomes. This study will be the first to develop baseline data regarding cognitive, behavioral, and emotional aspects of perceived viewer experience. Project activities include:

  • An inventory of STEM webcams that exist in the US, the STEM disciplines they represent, learning and engagement tools they employ, the number of viewers they reach, and the resources required for their operation
  • A survey of webcam operators, their STEM education goals, implementation strategies, and evaluation results; and
  • Surveys and interviews gathering data on viewers demographics and potential increase in curiosity, interest, knowledge, and behavior toward the STEM subject. This research will provide foundational knowledge for the STEM-education and research community that quantifies and describes many facets of the population of STEM webcams in the inventory.

Research activities will take place in three distinct phases, with Phase 1 laying the groundwork for Phases 2 and 3. Phase 1: The project team will conduct a systematic internet search for all identifiable STEM related webcams. Phase 2 (operator-focused): An online survey of practitioners of webcams operated by US-based STEM organizations will be conducted using Qualtrics software. Likert scales will be used. Various hypotheses will be tested regarding webcam program objectives, operations, and evaluations from the perspective of program operators or practitioners. Phase 3 (viewer-focused): Surveys and interviews with likely viewers of STEM webcams. Using the webcam inventory built in Phase 1, the team will collaborate with 20 informal STEM institutions that agree to survey their constituents to test hypotheses regarding webcam viewing practices, such as why and how viewers watch, and perceived outcomes of viewing, such as perceived influence on their interest, attitudes, knowledge, or behavior. The findings from this study will be widely shared with informal STEM institutions and webcam operators. It will provide foundational data for future experimental studies.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products

2021 Poster - State of the Nation's Webcams

Team Members

Sarah Schulwitz, Principal Investigator, The Peregrine Fund
Sara Hagenah, Co-Principal Investigator
Vanessa Fry, Co-Principal Investigator


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 2005869
Funding Amount: $285,526.00


Audience: Evaluators | General Public | Learning Researchers | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: General STEM
Resource Type: Project Descriptions | Projects
Environment Type: Broadcast Media | Media and Technology | Websites | Mobile Apps | Online Media

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This material is supported by National Science Foundation award DRL-2229061, with previous support under DRL-1612739, DRL-1842633, DRL-1212803, and DRL-0638981. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations contained within are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

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