Real-time text message surveys reveal student perceptions of personnel resources throughout a course-based research experience

Alyssa N. Olson, Sehoya Cotner, Catherine Kirkpatrick, Seth Thompson, Sadie Hebert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Course-based research experiences (CREs) are designed to engage students in authentic scientific experiences that are embedded into a standard curriculum. CREs provide valuable research experiences to large numbers of undergraduate biology students, however, CRE implementation can require many personnel. Because limited personnel may be a barrier to widespread CRE implementation, our goal was to discover which personnel students valued throughout a CRE and the ways they were valuable. We investigated students’ perceptions of personnel resources throughout a semester-long CRE using two survey approaches. Using a text message survey administered multiple times per week, real-time data was collected about which personnel resource students perceived to be the most helpful. Using a web-based survey administered five times throughout the semester, retrospective data was collected about how often students used each personnel resource and how helpful students perceived each personnel resource to be. Graduate teaching assistants (TAs) were consistently selected as the most helpful personnel resource by the majority of respondents throughout the semester, with most respondents describing graduate TAs providing project-specific feedback. Although less frequently, undergraduate TAs were also consistently selected as the most helpful personnel resource. Respondents described undergraduate TAs providing project-specific feedback, general feedback, and project-specific resources. Data from the retrospective, web-based survey largely mirrored the real-time, text message survey data. Throughout the semester, most respondents reported using graduate TAs “Often” or “Always” and that graduate TAs were “Very” or “Extremely” helpful. Throughout most of the semester, most respondents also reported using undergraduate TAs “Often” or “Always” and that undergraduate TAs were “Very” or “Extremely” helpful. The results of this descriptive study underscore the importance of graduate and undergraduate TAs in the development and implementation of CREs, emphasizing the need for departments and course coordinators to be intentional in planning TA training that prepares TAs to fulfill their critical role in CRE implementation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0264188
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation awarded to SC and CK (NSF 1432414). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Olson et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • Attitude
  • Biology/education
  • Curriculum
  • Faculty/psychology
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Students/psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires/statistics & numerical data

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Journal Article


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