Gain hands-on research experience through ASU Online’s OURS program

January 25, 2022 · 4 min read · By ASU Online
The OURS program was created to provide hands-on research experiences to online students interested in careers in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities.

What is the OURS program?

The Online Undergraduate Research Scholars (OURS) program is a multi-pronged initiative designed to create meaningful experiential learning and research experiences for ASU Online learners studying the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities.

The program is composed of four key components:

  • A new introductory course, Foundations of Undergraduate Research, which involves mentoring students on professional research skills. Students can then apply this knowledge to hands-on research projects at the university or in their future careers.
  • Providing scholarships to online students to support their academic or research interests.
  • Providing seed funding to faculty to develop and launch group-based research courses for ASU Online learners that allow them to contribute to a research project or research question. These experiences may be offered in hybrid or remote formats.
  • Organizing virtual and in-person events for online learners, such as research symposiums and professional development workshops.


Why was the program created?

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences created the OURS program to provide ASU Online learners with the extracurricular experiences necessary to stand out in their future endeavors, such as applying for graduate studies or taking the next steps in their careers.

“I think it's important to offer these research lab opportunities to online students because many of them want to move forward after they graduate,” said ASU lecturer Susan Holechek. “They want research internships. They’re applying to grad school. They’re applying to med school. Having hands-on experience, especially the way we do it in the context of real research projects, puts them ahead of the game.”

The OURS program brings a dynamic element to virtual learning. While some online courses include hands-on experiments through lab kits and virtual tours, the OURS program provides an enhanced experience to better prepare learners for graduate school and their careers. When students are invited to participate in faculty-led research, they can gain skills such as:

  • Communicating findings.
  • Fundamental research skills.
  • Interpreting data.
  • Presentation skills.
  • Writing about data. 

Ara Austin, a clinical assistant professor and director of the OURS Program at The College, said the program is a really good way for students to gain technical skills that are very specific to their discipline while also gaining soft skills applicable to a number of roles.

“Research is not just learning one thing,” said Austin. “It’s more of an experience that teaches the process of gaining new knowledge and sharing it.”


Do I have to travel to campus to participate in the program?

No. The OURS program was designed specifically with ASU Online learners in mind. Because research includes more than just the physicality of conducting experiments, you can participate in a majority of the experiences remotely.

For a majority of the experiential learning opportunities, you’ll be able to participate remotely. However, some will require in-person attendance. There may also be additional in-person opportunities for those who live in the greater Phoenix area and have access to campus.

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Hear from ASU Online students and faculty members as they express the importance of online research experience.

Why are research experiences important?

Research opportunities provide learners with tangible accomplishments that are universally understood. For an ASU Online student like Kacy Maddox, who plans to apply for medical school, this type of research experience can help her stand out to graduate admissions committees.

Maddox said she believes these in-person research experiences, where students are “able to come in person, to get the in-person experience, to get the contact with our faculties and our peers and be able to participate in these opportunities,” are integral to the validity of these online degree programs.

Faculty within The College have also voiced their support for greater access to research experiences for online learners. Professor Holechek talked about the difference she sees in students when they can collaborate with their peers on a project and work toward a common goal. When talking about the drive in online learners, she explained, “They’re invested in their careers and they’ll do whatever is needed to be part of a research project; and then, start a project of their own.” She added, “I think what we’re doing for the students is we're uniting in them that passion for research.”

As of January 2022, 63 ASU Online learners have participated in experiential learning opportunities since the program’s launch. Additionally, five ASU Online students studying disciplines across the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities have been awarded scholarships to support their academic and research interests.

Interested in studying the sciences and participating in the OURS program? Get the details on all of ASU Online's science degree programs.

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