Proceedings of The Physiological Society

Europhysiology 2018 (London, UK) (2018) Proc Physiol Soc 41, C110

Oral Communications

Developing an undergraduate course to address the skills gap in the communication of research to a diverse audience beyond academia

C. Haigh1

1. School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom.

Students in their future careers, will have to demonstrate their ability to communicate with many different audiences, skills that are often overlooked within undergraduate programmes. These skills are required by many graduate employers and are associated with further research degrees. The aim of this project was to develop a taught course for undergraduate students studying any discipline across the University of Leeds. Beneficial for those students who wish to effectively communicate research findings and engage with wider audiences. This course aimed to emphasise the link between research and student education. A Level 5, undergraduate course was created and delivered; its content encompassing the planning, delivery and evaluation of successful public engagement/outreach events based on current research at Leeds. The course consisted of 12 x 2 hour seminars delivered by experts in the field, with appropriate supplementary resources made available on the virtual learning environment. Seminars were delivered in a stimulating and interactive way, by both internal colleagues and external experts in the field. The topics included discovering key research areas at Leeds, event planning and organisation, understanding audiences, effective communication skills, working with the media, working with partner organisations, evaluation, funding and impact. The assessment was a written piece of coursework communicating, in a creative way, a key research finding published by academics at Leeds. This involved planning an event or resource by which to communicate this research to a chosen audience outside of academia. Students also engaged in a mid-way presentation of their suggested communication event or resource and a reflective blog. The course has been delivered to 2 cohorts of students (n=39). 82% of students were studying a programme within the biosciences. From the end of course survey (n=25) 96% of respondents rated the course as one of the most interesting courses they had studied so far. All respondents stated that they were satisfied or extremely satisfied with the course. 80% indicated they had developed new skills and all respondents stated they had enhanced existing skills, in particular communication, presenting, creativity, planning, organisation, research interpretation & engagement skills. This programme of work has demonstrated that undergraduate public engagement courses enable students to gain valuable work experience and develop key skills and attributes required by graduate employers, thereby significantly enhancing their employability.

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