Monday, June 4, 2012

Strong Public Support for Imaging-Based E-Labs: Results of a Google Consumer Survey  

Last week, with a $150 coupon from Google, Science Approach conducted a single-question survey using Google's Consumer Surveys service. The survey asked respondents to agree or disagree with the following statement:

Online labs that involve students in science with real imaging data sound useful and interesting.


The question was accompanied by the following description of Science Approach and a photo of stained, newly born neurons from Science Approach's "New Neurons for You After All" e-lab.

With funding provided by federal agencies, Science Approach creates e-labs for science instruction in K-12 schools and undergraduate institutions. This survey probes the degree to which faculty, students, and administrators in higher education see and foresee a need for such e-labs.

The survey was presented to 6,868 randomly selected potential respondents; 1,500 of these individuals responded to the survey (a 21.8% response rate).

Of the respondents, 68.1% agreed with the statement about using imaging data to teach science.

Google identified five "insights" from the data. Insights are statistically significant (p < 0.02) differences between demographic subpopulations.
  1. Among people earning $25-49K, those in the US South picked Agree more than those in the US Midwest (72.5% v. 55.7%).
  2. Among people in suburban areas, those in the US West picked Agree more than those in the US Midwest (80.5% v. 58.8%).
  3. 65+ year-olds picked Agree more than those aged 18-24. (81.3% v. 63.3%).
  4. Among men, those in the US West picked Agree more than those in the US Northeast (78.4% v. 60.6%).
  5. Among 45-54 year-olds, those in the US South picked Agree more than those in the US Midwest (79.9% v. 56.7%).
Of these insights, possibly most interesting is the age difference in choosing the "Agree" response. College-aged people were much less likely than senior citizens to agree that using images to teach science was useful and interesting. Although it is difficult to infer much from the results of a one question survey, the insight generated by Google begs further questions:
  1. Are younger people more accustomed to computer-based images of all sorts and thus less likely to see their use for science instruction to be interesting and useful?
  2. Are younger people more engaged by other kinds of media such as videos, immersive environments, simulations, or online games?
  3. Given the brevity of the survey and the limited ability to demonstrate to the respondents how images would be used in science instruction, did the respondents truly understand what was being proposed in the survey question? 
Such questions will receive further scrutiny in Science Approach's evaluation research.

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