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EPIC-N creates specialized tool for CSU, Monterey Bay to streamline data collection as university transitions to remote classrooms

Author: Devin R. Larsen
Contributors: Marshall Curry, Daniel Fernandez

The novel Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed our everyday lives

Recommended social distancing has led to self-quarantining at home to limit the spread of COVID-19. As businesses and universities have had to quickly adapt, many have chosen to move forward thanks to a simple remodel: employees, faculty, and students have been transferred to a remote network so academic studies and work can continue. 

The EPIC-Network—which helps local EPIC programs use the EPIC Model to bring together the resources in academia to tackle the biggest challenges in local communities—is especially beneficial to universities at this time, as the 1-on-1 technical assistance support is designed to help overcome boundaries faced both in the classroom and in the field.   

This 1-on-1 technical assistance can be a game-changer for universities facing regular challenges while converting classrooms from in-person to online. EPIC-N staff can employ their technical expertise to help create custom tools for any university’s program(s). 

CSUMB seeks a personalized tool for their EPIC-N program 

EPIC member program the Sustainable City Year Program (SCYP) at the California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) remains undeterred by COVID-19, holding participating courses online to continue completing projects for their two city partners—the City of Pacific Grove and the City of San Juan Bautista. Modeled after the EPIC program at the University of Oregon (UO), SCYP has provided numerous city partners with new and creative solutions to long-standing municipal challenges since its inception in Fall 2015 thanks to Dr. Daniel Fernandez.

While CSUMB’s City of Pacific Grove partnership started, Dr. Fernandez realized he wanted to simplify the process of student data collection and project research. He was particularly interested in creating a tool which would allow students to streamline the collection of case stories from comparable cities and projects to increase research efficiency. 

EPIC-N staff identifies university’s needs and gets to work 

Thanks to 1-on-1 technical assistance offered by his program’s EPIC membership, Dr. Fernandez reached out to EPIC-N staff for assistance in the creation of a specialized tool which could streamline student case study data collection. EPIC-N Program Manager Marshall Curry was connected with Dr. Fernandez to provide assistance with both, his expertise and his experience as a graduate student in the UO’s EPIC program. 

Through three short collaborative phone calls and digital meetings, Dr. Fernandez and Curry determined that the CSUMB personalized tool should be:

  • Clean and structured with efficiency in mind 
  • Hosted on an easy-to-use platform for student accessibility
  • Able to create meaningful outputs for local government partners
  • Helpful for Dr. Fernandez’s management of his class

Curry created a specialized tool which met the criteria set forth by Dr. Fernandez. He also created a curated lesson plan to administer over Zoom, an online meeting platform, which would be used to teach students how to use this customized tool, especially while working and collaborating in a remote setting. 

CSUMB students learn how to use the tool crafted by EPIC-N 

On April 7, 2020, Marshall Curry was invited to join as a guest lecturer with CSUMB students—via a Zoom call—to teach them how to use the personalized tool he created to assist with their city partnership. The lesson plan covered content meaningful for the learning experience as well as technical practice using the tool. Curry provided an overview of city-level data. For example, he guided students through the characteristics of federal administrative sources, local city websites, and more detailed Comprehensive Annual Financial Report documents. He also covered technical lessons about how students should use the tool, discussing the basics of case story analysis to personal strategies for data input. During the lesson Curry gave students ample time to become acquainted with the tool and ask questions along the way. Curry designed the lesson plan with different learning styles in mind, providing guidance to students who needed help navigating the tool while allowing other students time to challenge themselves to go further in their learning. 

Dr. Fernandez vocalized his appreciation for Curry’s presentation, saying:  

“In this case, Marshall’s experience with different cities and (relatively recently) as a student made him an ideal person to provide critical input to my class on how to have them locate and record information essential to their projects’ completion. He was thorough, clear, and engaging in his explanations. I look forward to seeing how their projects develop given his infusion of guidance during this very critical period.

Interested in getting involved with the EPIC-Network to solve community challenges with university resources? Consider checking out the #2020EPICN Free Webinar Series or contacting our talented staff by email at info@epicn.org or 608-709-8644.