Comparing Online and Residential Summer Bridge Programs for Mathematics Preparation of STEM Majors

Axel Brandt
Assistant Professor
Northern Kentucky University

Although there are various support programs for STEM students and students interested in STEM, mathematics preparation is a barrier to success, particularly for Persons Excluded due to Ethnicity and Race (PEERs). There is a need to test mechanisms to address mathematics preparation in a reduced amount of time to increase STEM retention and graduation rates. Informed by previous literature on the successes of and recommendations for summer bridge programs, we developed two 2-week bridge programs to improve math readiness for students enrolled in or interested in undergraduate STEM programs offered at Northern Kentucky University. We seek to compare the effectiveness of a residential bridge program to a non-residential online bridge program. Preliminary data suggest participants benefit from the program. The cumulative GPA and grades in participants’ first math course for the online summer 2020 cohort (N=22; ~50% PEERs, first-generation, and low-income; ACT mean 22.2, median 23) were equivalent to other first-year STEM majors (ACT 24.6 mean, 25 median) and their retention at NKU into spring semester was slightly higher (91% vs 77%). After the summer program, 32% of students were able to enroll in a higher mathematics course, as were 64% of the residential 2021 cohort of participants (N=14, ~71% PEERs, first-generation, and low-income). When comparing participants in the residential and online programs, residential participants spent more hours in mathematical preparation activities than online participants (median 24.2 hours vs 16.63 hours) and residential participants improved placement for their first mathematics course at greater rate than online participants (64.3% vs 36.4%). We anticipate that outcomes will reflect a systematic comparison of residential and non-residential versions of a 2-week bridge program that contributes to current knowledge on bridge programs. This is significant in that results will be translatable to similar universities working to diversify their STEM programs.


Seth Adjei, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY; Bethany Bowling, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY; Brooke Buckley, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY; Joshua Cooper, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY; Patrick Hare, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY