There are many paths to effective outreach and science engagement, and it is this diversity of work that the Geoscience Outreach course wants to encourage. Engagement with local and broader communities can provide universities with the opportunity to expand from a discipline-based framework to one with a stronger level of societal relevance (Fitzgerald, 2012). It also provides students with grounded, practical experience that can be applied in future careers. Geoscience Outreach students have gone on to careers in scientific communication, media and education, some getting jobs as a direct result of their outreach projects (Myers-Smith, 2017).
Students are encouraged to co-create their own projects, and to decide the subject, audience and client with whom they will work, providing the opportunity for unique cultural and community relationships. The University especially values its relationship with the Scottish community, and it is these relationships that form the foundation from which it continues to look towards the widest international horizons, enriching both itself and Scotland (University of Edinburgh, 2015).
Open licensing has been incorporated into the course since 2014, with additional training on copyright and digital literacy, to encourage students to share their final projects under open licence. This has also changed the educational practices of teaching and support staff involved in the course, who have created additional OERs from their latest research aimed at local primary and secondary school level.
During the summers of 2016 and 2017 Open Content Curator Interns were employed to disseminate the Geoscience OER outputs and increase their reach. Both interns reported that the experience enriched their own practices, with each seeking out and creating their own OER during their internships.
Although run by Geosciences, the course has gained interest from multiple faculty, and this year students are participating from diverse programmes including ecology, geology, geography, psychology, archaeology and landscape architecture.
Fitzgerald, H. E., Bruns, K., Sonka, S., Furco, A., & Swanson, L. (2012). The centrality of engagement in higher education. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 16(3), 7-28.
Myers-Smith, I., Daskalova, G. (2017), ‘GeoScience Outreach: teaching science communication ‘beyond the programme’ and outside of the ‘Ivory Tower’’, Teaching Matters,
University of Edinburgh (2015), ‘Mission Statement’, Governance & Strategic Planning, https://www.ed.ac.uk/about/mission-governance/mission