A cohort of OUWB faculty has published a paper on successful efforts to create a microbiology outreach program for high school students.


‘Using what’s at hand’

Cohort of OUWB faculty publish paper on success of online summer enrichment program

An image of screenshots from online learning sessions.

icon of a calendarMarch 22, 2022

icon of a pencilBy Andrew Dietderich

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A cohort of OUWB faculty has published a paper on successful efforts to create a microbiology outreach program for high school students.

Using What’s at Hand: The Creation of an Online Microbiology Outreach Program” recently was published in the American Society for Microbiology’s Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education.

Co-authors were Deidre Hurse, Ph.D., Kyeorda Kemp, Ph.D., — both assistant professors — James Grogan, Ph.D., professor, and Tracey Taylor, Ph.D., associate professor, all from OUWB’s Department of Foundational Medical Studies. Taylor also serves as one of the school’s assistant deans for Diversity & Inclusion.

The paper outlines the success of OUWB’s Online Summer Enrichment Program (OSEP), a free, five-day online program for students who have expressed interest in medicine and careers in health sciences.

“There’s no need to recreate the wheel,” says Kemp. “If you have a program and it’s worked great, why not publish on it so other people can find out about it?”


Pre-COVID-19, OUWB’s Diversity & Inclusion department annually held in-person programs for area youth, such as the Future Physicians Summer Enrichment Program (FPSP)

The purpose was to engage with pre-college students who are interested in careers in medicine.

Kyeorda Kemp-2

Kemp says it’s important to offer such programs in order to reach students interested in the sciences at a younger age.

“It’s critical,” she says. “We know from literature that the earlier we reach students, the more likely it is they will enter a pathway to (science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics). If we want students to enter into these fields, they need that early exposure…and we need to get them excited about it.”

In 2020 and 2021, OUWB officials decided to offer an online program due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, 11 faculty from OUWB’s Department of Foundational Medical Studies volunteered to help deliver the program. Kemp says she and the other faculty involved do it because they enjoy interacting with the younger learners.

“You realize that they’re really loving what they’re doing and really enjoying it,” she says.

The theme of the 2021 program was, “How the Brain Forms and Works.” About 30 high schoolers participated.

At the time, Tiffany Williams, Ph.D., director of Diversity & Inclusion, said the program went “exceedingly well.”

“This is the second summer in a row that we have offered the online enrichment program,” she said.

“I can say we have learned a lot, which has allowed us to get better at facilitating this program in a virtual setting. I am also excited as we have seen more geographic diversity among our participants being virtual.”

According to the paper in the Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education, “student and faculty assessment indicated that the program was a success.”

“Our online microbiology precollege outreach program demonstrated an effective way to expose students to infectious disease concepts and information literacy,” states the paper.

Kemp says that’s why the cohort decided to publish a paper and offer up to others some of the tips and tools gained from the experience.

‘An effective way to expose students to microbiology online’

The paper explains that the structure of the program centers on “The Seven Principles of Good Practice,” a teaching model originally published for undergraduate education.

“The framework emphasizes instructor-student and student-student interactions, active learning techniques, prompt feedback, and respecting diverse learners,” states the paper.

OSEP consisted of four days of sessions with each day’s theme and objectives mapped to program objectives, which were designed to introduce learners to medical microbiology, antibiotics and issues in treatment, and careers in medicine and biomedical sciences.

Day one, for example, was titled “Microbes and Society Part 1.” By the end of the program, on day four, participants learned about “Biomedical Research Projects & Careers.”

The program primarily was asynchronous, though every day began with a one-hour synchronous session to introduce the day’s topics, review content, etc.

“The asynchronous format allowed students to interact with the content best suited to their schedule, which was especially important in light of the pandemic, as many students experienced additional responsibilities at home relate to financial and familial obligations,” states the paper.

The paper calls the program a success, due in large part to its ability to accommodate “multidimensional abilities from different educational systems and various academic achievements.”

Feedback further indicated that 83% of the participating students indicated they were “inspired/strongly inspired” to learn more about microbiology. Also, 93% of students reported that they felt more confident in educating themselves about scientific topics.

“While there are benefits to face-to-face learning, it is not always possible,” concludes the paper. “This program demonstrated an effective way to expose students to microbiology online.”

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