As we continue to commemorate Women’s History Month, University of Colorado Denver’ STEM Education Professor Geeta Verma has recently embarked on a new journey—empowering women and minorities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields through her National Science Foundation grant and other research activities. The founder of a new online platform called “LivedX,” Verma leverages machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to accelerate opportunities for minoritized and marginalized youth.
Growing up in India, Verma recognized the glaring educational and economic disparities in the society. This became her motivation to develop LivedX, an aspirational tool used to bridge some of these disparities by valuing the lived experiences of all youth, especially the minoritized and marginalized, into formal academic credentials.
“I came up with the idea of LivedX after talking to students, educators, and administrators who were working hard to get high school and college students to graduate,” said Verma. “Achievement gaps continue to persist between historically disadvantaged students in Colorado and their peers. The latest K-12 CMAS data available (prior to the pandemic) showed that in all grades, Black and Hispanic students met or exceeded expectations at smaller percentages in math and English compared with white peers.”
Verma noted that while 60% of white fifth-graders met or exceeded expectations on the English language arts tests, Black students came in at 31.6% and Hispanics at 31.5%, according to a recent report. The Colorado Department of Higher Education’s master plan also notes that Colorado’s gap between the educational attainment of the white majority and Hispanic minority is the second largest in the nation.
From 2019 through 2020, college graduation rates in Colorado averaged 66.7% for Native American students, 72.8% for Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander students, 75.4% for Hispanic or Latino students, 76.6% percent for Black students, 86.7% for White students, and 91.2% for Asian students, Verma noted. Across the state, there are not only racial/ethnic attainment gaps, but also attainment gaps for students from low-income families and first-generation students.
LivedX is designed to minimize the impact of the unequal backgrounds of minoritized students’ lives—it was recently included in Forbes Next 1000 List.
The platform helps individuals create a data-driven resume of soft skills based on their life experiences. By leveraging machine learning, these skills are turned into micro-credentials categories such as collaboration, communication, and global citizenship skills.
“This tool connects students to adult and peer mentors and learning opportunities to set up a foundation for success in every aspect of their lives,” said Verma. “Users can earn college credits based on their LivedX profiles as they accumulate micro-credentials.”
Verma noted that she is attempting to solve two problems: getting these students to the graduation finish line by helping them earn extra credits, and capturing their stories— stories of perseverance, creativity, and other skills to broaden the notion of achievement beyond academic credits.
Verma shared: “I felt compelled to change the status quo by creating a socially-just AI tool that supports, motivates, and empowers diverse students and women to document and convey their important life-skills in ways that will help them overcome achievement opportunity gaps.”
Measurable results for LivedX, to date, include 1,000 student user profiles and high user satisfaction rates. Participant responses have included: “I feel my life matters” and “the technology is really easy to use.” Many plan to mention the skills they have documented in LivedX in job and higher education applications.
Currently, LivedX is partnering with schools and universities in the United States to be included in the student advisory toolkit. Students are notified by their school/university that they are eligible to engage on the platform at no individual cost. Through a partnership with CU Denver and its School of Education and Human Development, Individual students may obtain transcripted CU Denver credits for their completion of activities in LivedX at the cost of $74 per credit for US high school students and $119 per credit for US college students.
In 2022, Verma plans to expand the use of LivedX to students living around the globe, starting with English-speaking countries.