How to Get Students Excited About STEM


Administrators often believe that a big percentage of STEM students will wash out before completing their programs.

Faculty see disengaged students in the back row and are often resigned to the belief that most of their students just don’t love their field of study as much as they do. But the truth is more nuanced and more hopeful — STEM students can be motivated to stay enrolled and on track with the right interventions. Read on to discover how virtual labs are helping to solve the challenge of student engagement in STEM education.

Engagement predicts program retention

Students who get engaged in their first and second-year courses are 40% more likely to complete their program than disengaged students (3).

Engagement predicts academic performance

GPAs are 6.8% higher among students who get engaged in their first and second-year courses (3).

Disengaged students stay off track

Students who are disengaged in their first and second-year courses are 68.5% more likely to remain disengaged — and have higher DFW (drop, fail, or withdraw) rates (3).

How do we motivate students? It’s natural for faculty to doubt their students are willing to put in the effort to succeed. But learning as a means to an end, like getting a good job, can be just as motivational as satisfying curiosity. In fact, students who take a challenging course like chemistry as a general education requirement can come to enjoy the learning process as they acquire knowledge and develop competence (4; 5).

A big part of boosting student engagement and motivation in STEM is using active learning strategies. These strategies make the learning experience stimulating and relevant enough to evoke positive emotions and arouse interest while students actively participate in a cycle of inquiry, productive practice, and targeted feedback.

Take the Product Tour to discover how Labster can help your STEM program drive engagement.

Inspire Your Students Today

Discover how Labster can help your STEM program drive engagement.


1) Chipchase, L., Davidson, M., Blackstock, F., Bye, R., Clothier, P., Klupp, N., ... & Williams, M. (2017). Conceptualising and measuring student disengagement in higher education: A synthesis of the literature. International Journal of Higher Education, 6(2), 31-42.

2) Murphy, C. (2012, March). Why games work and the science of learning. In Selected Papers Presented at MODSIM World 2011 Conference and Expo. Retrieved from

3) Saqr, M., & López-Pernas, S. (2021). The dire cost of early disengagement: A four-year learning analytics study over a full program. In Technology-Enhanced Learning for a Free, Safe, and Sustainable World: 16th European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning, EC-TEL 2021, Bolzano, Italy, September 20-24, 2021, Proceedings 16 (pp. 122-136). Springer International Publishing.

4) Barkley, E. F., & Major, C. H. (2020). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. John Wiley & Sons.

5) Hidi, S., & Renninger, K. A. (2006). The four‐phase model of interest development. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 111–127.

6) Freeman, S., Eddy, S. L., McDonough, M., Smith, M. K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M. P. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(23), 8410-8415. Retrieved from

7) Klein, A. (February 21, 2023). Want to Motivate Students? Give Them a Meaningful Taste of the Working World. Retrieved from

8) Koedinger, K. R., Kim, J., Jia, J. Z., McLaughlin, E. A., & Bier, N. L. (2015). Learning is not a spectator sport: Doing is better than watching for learning from a MOOC. Proceedings of the Second ACM Conference on Learning @ Scale (pp. 111–120). Association for Computing Machinery.