Evaluation of NOVA's RNA Lab
NOVA Labs (www.pbs.org/nova/labs) is a web-based platform designed to engage teens and educators with authentic data, scientific games, tools, and opportunities to communicate with and assist working scientists. The present study sought to investigate the outcomes achieved by users of the fourth NOVA Labs platform developed: RNA Lab. The RNA Lab includes several key components of the previous labs (e.g., videos, educator guides, etc.). The major difference is that the RNA Lab “research challenge” is a game component. The NOVA Education team's overarching goals for teens using the Lab focused on learning content and an increased understanding that they can contribute to the larger scientific community. The goals for teachers who use the Lab are that they successfully facilitate lessons using the Labs resources, find value in including these resources in their curriculum, and demonstrate interest in further opportunities to incorporate NOVA Labs. The RNA Lab evaluation focused on the following questions: 1. What influence does the game structure of the RNA Lab have on teen learning and engagement (including preferences, time spent, motivation, leveling-up, and out-of- school engagement)? 2. How is the use of NOVA Labs providing value to teachers’ classroom practice? How do they integrate it into their curriculum/practice? 3. How does using NOVA RNA Lab impact student-learning of RNA content and awareness of STEM careers? 4. What attributes or features of NOVA Labs are most useful to teachers and instructive to students? Which are the most motivating for student learners in- and out-of-school? Do students feel they have contributed to science? 5. What attributes or features of NOVA Labs are confusing or difficult to understand (teens and teachers)? The evaluation used multiple methods. The primary approach was identifying five teachers across the country who intended to implement RNA Lab in Fall 2014. From these test classrooms (grades 6-12), evaluators collected pre/post-test data from their 200+ student users, and conducted post- implementation interviews with the teacher-users. Supporting this study, was an effort to survey teachers known to NOVA Education as possible RNA Labs users. This survey was distributed to 82 teachers, who had expressed an earlier interest in this study, through e-mails sent from the web- based survey platform; 16 responded, six used the RNA Lab with their students. Appendix includes instruments.