24for24: A Virtual Summer Bridge Program in Multiple 24-Minute Sessions for the Collegiate Class of 2024


The vast outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020 precipitated many changes worldwide, including the sudden shift to online and remote learning across institutions of higher education in the United States. Those sudden shifts yielded ill-prepared remote learning experiences – dubbed pandemic teaching – that contributed to a growing fear of a drastic reduction in student enrollment in the forthcoming 2020-2021 academic year if the quality of remote engagement did not substantially improve. Institutions worldwide rapidly pivoted and sought to explore new means of effectively engaging their student populations, including incoming students, to shore up retention and matriculation in the face of a new and persisting remote learning environment. The authors of this study created a new virtual summer bridge program, named 24for24, to shore up their institution’s engagement with its students. 24for24 was targeted at the incoming class of 2024 engineering majors at a primarily undergraduate institution in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The summer bridge program was intentionally designed to generate excitement for the engineering major and to promote early community-building, which defines our paper’s two objectives, as a means of shoring up matriculation and provide the authors a metaphorical sandbox to explore online pedagogical practices emphasizing student engagement. The quality of the program’s two objectives were assessed using aggregated survey results and through qualitative observations of the matriculated cohort at the start of the 2020-2021 academic year. The authors found no measurable change in excitement for the major, yet the authors found that the summer bridge program fostered a small community made up of about 30 students who actively participated throughout the 8-week long program and continued to engage intimately with each other in the first-year engineering course at the start of the new academic year. The authors discuss perceived benefits and shortcomings of the program and speculate on means of strengthening it in a post-COVID-19 era where the threat of reduced student enrollment is ever-present due to demographic changes in the United States. The authors’ inaugural execution of 24for24 revealed that there is value in engaging with students in a virtual summer bridge program remotely as a cost-efficient means of fostering enthusiasm for engineering studies, fostering a sense of belonging through community-building, and priming student mindset for success.

2020 Sixth International Conference on e-Learning (econf)