The OU centre for STEM pedagogy
The covid-19 pandemic has resulted in losses in opportunities for students to gain experience at summer placements in research and industrial laboratories. Such placements are invaluable for obtaining hands-on experience and developing planning, critical thinking, analysis and communication skills, all of which are desired in graduates. Recognizing the loss of opportunity, the RSC provided a grant in 2020 for the broad area of research enablement and research development in the chemical sciences. This grant was used to run a pilot Chemistry Online Summer School.
This proposal is to expand the summer school, to subsequent years and complementary disciplines. The research is seeking to explore the value of offering such an event which falls outside of a qualification in terms of:
The activities at the school are investigative in nature, to build skills relevant to research, and utilise both interactive screen experiments and remote experiments. They are supported by PhD students, who also share their own research experience with the students at the briefing and debriefing sessions. A student conference gives students an opportunity to practise their communication skills as either an oral or poster presentation.
Although the aim of this project is to explore the value of events that fall outside of the assessed curriculum, this project may have impact on a wider scale as many universities explore ways to deliver the practical content of their course. Investigations such as those offered in the school may be used as an alternative to some experiments which are focused on using instruments (e.g. spectroscopy, chromatography and microscopy), if the student’s technical skills (e.g. sample preparation, preparing solutions) have already been developed. Therefore, is anticipated that the outcomes of this project will be disseminated at conferences and in publications.