University of Illinois

2020 Impact Report
College of Education

COVID-19 has challenged higher education—and spurred a flurry of research activity in the College of Education

by Tom Hanlon

In response to the pandemic, the College has provided seed funding for 10 projects, all related to the impacts of COVID-19 on education and society.

“We wanted to support our researchers, particularly as they think about how to transition to new modes of research,” says Gabrielle Allen, the College’s associate dean for research and research education. “We know there’s been a big disruption to school-based research, and we wanted to incentivize researchers to start looking at alternative data sources and collection methods.”

The hope, Allen adds, is that these activities will turn into full-blown projects that could receive larger-scale funding from major federal foundations. The projects range from studying changes in undergraduate STEM motivation due to the pandemic to developing an “interactive automatic counselor” to serve as a risk assessment tool to help people navigate day-to-day uncertainties related to COVID-19 to adapting preschools to online learning.

“The projects show the breadth of scholarship in the College,” Allen says. “We have to think about things more holistically, looking at the grand challenges in education that we need to address.” No matter the area of research, the ultimate goal is societal impact, Allen says. “That’s what we’re looking at. How can we contribute to improving outcomes for our community now, while we also support our researchers in their careers, and support our students to continue their studies? This was the motivation for us in designing this solicitation.

Allen, who also oversees the Bureau of Education Research (BER), points to the importance of the BER in driving and supporting transformative research—not just in the College of Education, but across campus.

“If we want to see real societal impact, then we absolutely need to be doing more interdisciplinary research around clusters of activities, so we can look at the grand challenges of education.”
— Gabrielle Allen, the College’s associate dean for research and research education

COVID-19 Seed-Funded Research Projects: