Development of A Bootcamp for Freshman Student Success During COVID-19 Transition
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Results from assessment show that passing rates in introductory courses as well as retention rates of first-year students in the College of Engineering and Computer Science at a HSI significantly dropped with the advent of COVID-19. Such results and trends provide an overall perspective on the academic preparation of incoming students. There is a high concern that the necessary skill set (e.g., adaptability, persistence, and performance) of the new cohort of students, who are primarily underrepresented Hispanics from underserved and challenged communities from the Rio Grande Valley, is not optimal for the rigor of engineering education. To this end, an onboarding bootcamp for incoming and transfer students was created to bridge the transition from secondary education to higher education by priming students to overcome academic deficiencies, develop a critical skills portfolio, learn problem-solving techniques, build a sustainable community of mentoring support with faculty and students, and provide a template to sustain academic and professional success during their undergraduate education. The paper presents the bootcamps’ design process steps: curricular analysis, identification of areas of opportunities, skills inventory, and blueprinting process, as well as its initial implementation in the mechanical engineering program. In this regard, the bootcamp was organized over a week span with hands-on engineering activities, faculty and student talks, and engineering lab tours; and was based on a design thinking approach. Daily activities were structured based on Challenge-based Instruction, innovation, design, and mentoring, and focused primarily on promoting critical thinking, being assertive in the face of adversity, making informed decisions, and prioritizing tasks. Results indicate that the bootcamp increased student confidence and established a valuable network system amongst other findings. Future work will focus on expanding the bootcamp to include students from other engineering and computer science departments and to offer the template to other institutions with similar challenges.