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Undergraduates studying science, technology, engineering and math fields and who are traditionally at higher risk of dropping out of those majors were not significantly demotivated academically by the shift to online instruction during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a semester-long study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The study included 182 students who took an introductory biology course at the university during the spring 2020 semester and were surveyed to measure their motivation as classes were quickly shifted online due to the pandemic, said an article about the study published in the Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education. The researchers wanted to further investigate media reports and other survey findings that said disadvantaged students were less motivated when taking classes remotely, and they looked in particular at responses from biology students who are Black, Latinx, female and first-generation college students -- groups that are typically at risk of dropping STEM majors.

The responses from students were mixed; some said they were inspired to overcome adversity during the pandemic and pursue STEM fields during a time when health professionals are needed and highly regarded, while others felt like giving up, the article said. Over all, the researchers concluded that there was not “massive demotivation” among disadvantaged groups of students due to online learning, as some reports have suggested.