Funded Projects: 2014-2015

Improving Speech Intelligibility and Vocal Health by Controlling Background Noise in the Classroom

Principal Investigator:

Eric Hunter
Associate Professor, Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders
College of Communication Arts and Sciences 

Additional Researchers:

Pasquale Bottalico
Research Associate, Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders
College of Communication Arts and Sciences

Simone Graetzer
Research Associate, Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders
College of Communication Arts and Sciences

Lalita Udpa
Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
College of Engineering

Investigations over the last 30 years have documented the detrimental effects of excessive noise levels (such as student babble) on children's cognitive processing and academic performance. Additionally, high noise levels in the classroom are a frequently mentioned causal factor of the more than 18% of school teachers in the US miss at least 1 day of work per year due to voice disorders. Of all classroom noise sources (e.g. classroom equipment, HVAC, lighting systems), teachers judge student babble to be the most intense, annoying and frequent source of noise in the classroom.

In order to reduce the risk of voice disorders in teachers and to improve children’s cognitive processing and academic performance, there is a critical need to reduce the level of student babble in classrooms. To meet this need, this project will develop a low-cost device capable of determining the optimal noise threshold for a given environment and providing visual feedback for the class to respond to, thereby promoting a healthy self-regulation of noise output by hearing and hearing-impaired persons. Unlike a sound level meter, this device will be able to distinguish between background noise and the voice of a teacher or other main talker and only present the background noise. Gaining this control involves an educational process for pupils regarding noise perception by means of visual cues.


Evaluating the Impact of Message Features and Network Structures on the Effectiveness of Social Media in Preventive Health Information Propagation

Principal Investigator:

Jingbo Meng
Assistant Professor, Department of Communication
College of Communication Arts and Sciences

Additional Researchers:

Wei Peng
Associate Professor, Department of Media and Information
College of Communication Arts and Sciences

Pang-Ning Tan
Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science
and Engineering, College of Engineering

James Dearing
Professor and Chair, Department of Communication,
College of Communication Arts and Sciences

A variety of health organizations have turned toward online social media to disseminate health information and connect with patients. However, there is a lack of research on how successful health  organizations are disseminating their messages on social media and what strategies they should adopt to capitalize on social media to inform the public or patients of decision-making about disease prevention.

The goal of this proposed research is to determine message- and network-related antecedents to the propagation of preventive health information broadcasted by health organizations through social media. In the process of achieve the research goal, this project will generate validated methodologies to systematically study preventive health information on social media, and generate strategies for health organizations to propagate preventive health information so that they can promote prevention more effectively using social media.

The project is innovative because it will 1) focus on information propagation strategies of health organizations, including federal public health institutes and healthcare systems, which have received little scholarly attention; 2) leverage big data technique to mine message and network data from social media and  a scalable, online machine learning technique to automatically classify messages based on communication theories; 3) integrate the theoretical perspectives of message design and network structures, which have been disconnected in the examination of information propagation processes on social media. Our research team draws expertise from communication, media and information and computer science.

Intervention With Parents to Increase Physical Activity and Healthy Eating Among Their Adolescent Children

Principal Investigator:

Lorraine Robbins
Associate Professor, College of Nursing

Additional Researchers:

Millie Horodynski
Professor, College of Nursing

Jiying Ling
Assistant Professor, College of Nursing

Jina Huh
Assistant Professor, Department of Media and Information
College of Communication Arts and Sciences

Mi Zhang
Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering,
College of Engineering

Joyce McGarry
Extension Educator, MSU Extension-Health and Nutrition

Sheilah Hebert
Associate Program Leader, MSU Extension-Health and Nutrition

Family involvement and community partnerships are recommended in school-based

interventions to reduce the high overweight and obesity prevalence among adolescents. Although important, actively involving parents/guardians has been a challenge in studies to date due to their lack of time for time-intensive approaches and various issues preventing frequent travel to a site. Social media represent a convenient, socially engaging, supportive, and cost-effective approach for involving parents/guardians. To our knowledge, no intervention has involved parents/guardians through Facebook to assist and encourage them to help their adolescent children increase their physical activity (PA) and healthy eating.

To contribute toward filling this gap, a 4-week pilot study will be conducted in spring 2015 to establish the feasibility, acceptability, and satisfaction of two interventions for parents/guardians of 5 th – 6 th graders (N = 20 dyads): (1) two 90-minute meetings with parent/guardian and adolescent dyads (one in week 1 and the other in week 4) at the adolescents’ school; and (2) an innovative web-based social media intervention delivered via Facebook for parents/guardians. At the initial meeting, each dyad will receive: (1) information on national recommendations, behavioral strategies, and encouragement for increasing PA and healthy eating; (2) a healthy cooking lesson from a chef; (3) a cooking appliance; and (4) a small bag of groceries to facilitate preparation of the demonstrated recipe at home. Also, each parent/guardian will be given a tablet (including Internet service) to take home after receiving instructions in its use. 

Parents/guardians from the participating school will be connected to each other via a private Facebook group in order to receive information on a weekly PA and healthy eating theme, share behavioral strategies/success stories, and offer support to each other. The 4-week web-based intervention delivered via Facebook will include weekly information, motivational messages, and behavioral strategies on PA and healthy eating and two challenges every week (one on PA and the other on healthy eating) posted every Saturday morning. Each parent/guardian will be asked to post a statement or picture to respond to each of the two weekly challenges and also to respond to at least one other person’s posting before midnight every Friday. The 2 nd meeting in week 4 will include a review of information and behavioral strategies for maintaining PA and healthy eating. Parents/guardians will complete a survey to indicate their satisfaction with the web-based intervention (challenges and content) and its acceptability (format, ease of use, and delivery method) and receive incentives for completing both the survey and weekly challenges. Immediately after the 2nd meeting, a small focus group will be conducted with 6 parents/guardians and another one with 6 adolescents who volunteer to share their thoughts about the intervention and suggestions for improving it. To prepare for examining fidelity on a broader scale, five interested parents/guardians will be selected from those in the pilot who are interested in using a custom-made electronic gadget to be developed by MSU engineers that will automatically detect appliance usage.