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CU and MSU collaboration examines challenges and opportunities for informal physics learning in the COVID era

As part of a collaboration with CU-Boulder, PERL professor Katie Hinko and research associate Dena Izadi published Challenges and opportunities for informal physics learning in the COVID era in Physical Review, Physics Education Research.

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted every aspect of academic activity, including the informal education and public engagement efforts of physics departments and institutions. As part of a large-scale national survey of the landscape of informal physics education programs, we have conducted a series of short interviews with directors and facilitators for a variety of programs in order to create a snapshot of whether and how programs have been able to adapt to the challenges and risks of the pandemic. Broadly, we find that programs are struggling to maintain any activity at all, and that those programs still in operation have relied largely on the efforts of individual director or facilitators to make substantial adaptations. Additionally, we find that those programs that have been most successful in maintaining activity benefit from strong, ongoing institutional support; we present the findings of this study both to complement existing research on formal spaces and to advocate for the continued support of informal physics education, which continues to play a crucial role in connecting departments to the public.