The Quantum Atlas: A Visual Guide to an Unseen World
As part of its overall strategy to enhance learning in informal environments, the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments. This includes providing multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences, advancing innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments, and developing understandings of deeper learning by participants. The goal of this project is to make 21st century quantum science comprehensible and engaging to non-expert informal adult learners. This project has strong potential to add new knowledge about the public's perception and understanding of quantum physics. This scientific content is often difficult for informal audiences to grasp, and there are relatively few accessible learning resources for a non- professional audience. The development of this online, interactive resource with short animations, graphics, and simulations has strong potential to fill this gap. It will develop a visually driven online resource to engage non-expert audiences in understanding the basics of quantum physics. The web design will be modular, incorporating many multimedia elements and the structure will be flexible allowing for future expansion. All content would be freely available for educational use. There is potential for extensive reach and use of the resources by informal adult learners online as well as learners in museums, science centers, and schools. Project partners are the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, College Park. An independent evaluation of the project will add new knowledge about informal learners' perceptions and/or knowledge about quantum science and technology. An initial needs assessment via focus groups with the general public will be designed to find out more about what they already know about quantum physics topics and terminology, as well as what they want to know and what formats they prefer (games, simulations, podcasts, etc.). In person user testing will be used with early versions of the project online resource using a structured think-aloud protocol. Later in year 1 and 2, online focus groups with the general public will be conducted to learn what they find engaging and what they learned from the content. Iterative feedback from participants during the formative stage will guide the development of the content and format of the online resources. The Summative Evaluation will gather data using a retrospective post-survey embedded with a pop-up link on the Atlas followed by interviews with a subset of online users. Google Analytics will be used to determine the breadth and depth of their online navigation, what resources they download, and what websites they visit afterward. A post-only survey of undergraduate and graduate students who participated in resource development will focus on changes in students' confidence around their science communication skills and level of quantum physics understanding.