Outside influence and client
Meetings with advisors
After our first meeting with our advisor, Katriona Edlmann and Dylan Price on 22/10/2020, Nils (my classmate who I was planning on working with) and I were able to get our ideas out in the open. Both our advisors were very impressed with our ideas and thought the next step would be to contact Kay Douglas and Mark Naylor to help us decide which of the two ideas would be ideal to peruse. They understand the details of how the course is run and may have contacts that would enable us to realise the ideas.
The meeting on 27/10/2020 was crucial in underpinning the progression and evolution of the project and was called to further narrow down the direction of the project. Which idea would be brought into fruition and would represent my final project. Nils, Katriona, Kay, Dylan and Mark were all present. Kay and Mark pointed out that the idea of Nils and me working on one big project may be problematic when it comes to the marking and deciding whom to allocate marks to, for what. This was not what both of us hoped for, however, we came to the conclusion that we can work on the same overall outcome, share resources and help each other out as long as there was a clear-cut line of who did what and that the projects themselves were technically separate.
Exploring the 2nd idea (a taught skills class to 16–17-year-olds), Kay and Mark both agreed that this age group would be preoccupied with exams and UCAS applications and will therefore be less likely to engage with our project. This is why they suggested I focus on a younger age group for this project. After a short discussion, I came to the conclusion that teachers at schools were the best way to reach the target audience. Kay and Mark, both being parents, knew how busy many of the teachers were during the evolution of the COVID pandemic with the onset and preparation of online classes. With this in mind, they told me that it’s unlikely that I will have the support of the teachers, to the degree that I need, during the pandemic.
Taking their points on board I decided that I would try and minimise the role of teachers in my outreach, to increase cooperation and responses. After further discussion with Kay and consulting the web, Nils and myself decided to stick with the pre-university age bracket but adjust it to include late national 5 level students as well, adjusting the age bracket for the target audience to 15-17. Many students when they finish their national 5 will be thinking of what they want to do with their lives, so it makes sense to include them into this bracket. I still felt strongly about targeting this age group. Overall I felt that project would have a larger impact on them than on younger students.
Deciding on the client
Kay and Katriona suggested two clients: the marketing team or the widening participation team of the university. To reach more students across the country my first impressions were that the marketing team would be an ideal client for this project. An email was sent out to both potential clients. After a few weeks of no response, Andrew Cross (course organiser) stepped in and contacted the WP team directly. Neil Spiers (of the WP team) contacted us directly asking for us to meet. With the hope of also working with the marketing team to increase turnout to the event, I sent more emails to the marketing team, to no avail.
Before meeting the client, Nils and myself decided on our projects. I would be creating an online seminar/ workshop event for students to join from all over the country, introducing them to the world of geosciences, the degrees, and the associated careers. Nils would focus on an interactive website that allowed students to browse geoscience degrees in their own time with far greater detail. Together, trying to achieve the same holistic goal of reaching out to students and exposing them to geoscience.
Neil Speirs and Nils and I met for the first time online on 30/11/2020. We described our motivations and gave him a rough outline of the two projects that we have (the seminar (aka webinar) and the website) decided on. Although he was happy to work with us, he gave us a lot of feedback with respect to how we have thought about our project. This included the target audience, the goals, the motivation of attendees and the associated personae as well as the longevity of the project. All of which we had suitable answers for, however Neil was determined to make his point clear that we had not thought about our project enough yet to “just” start working on it. As a result, he wanted us to write a project summary for the start of January with a particular focus on the points he mentioned.
Revisions – a summary report
After many long discussions with Nils, we arrived at two projects that had considered all of the points made by Neil. A personae was created to ensure that the project was aligned with the goals of the WP team. To reduce the stress on students and make the content more accessible it was crucial that I studied and looked at the national 5 STEM and geography curriculum so that it could be integrated with the content of the webinar. The content was designed so that anyone who was doing or has done the national 5 exams could engage with the content. Occasionally content was added that was a little more challenging in order to ensure engagement from students on all levels.
The two meetings on 26/01/21 and 29/1/21 where I presented the summary report was very fruitful and the client seemed to be pleased with the direction of the projects. The main queries were when and how I was going to advertise. We settled that the route via teachers and schools would be the simplest and most effective way to each a wider audience. Particularly trying to reach STEM leads and or career advisors working at schools to get the message across to students.
Neil originally suggested that the dissemination of the webinar and the website should be contained to Edinburgh alone, however, Nils and myself were determined to reach as many schools as possible.
With such a big goal in mind it was not likely we would get all the material ready to advertise for the February half term, which was approaching. Considering that I was planning on holding the webinar at the start of April, it would have not been wise to advertise months in advance.
The last points made by Neil were that I should focus on inter-and trans-disciplinary content as a way to appeal to more students. He also talked about the importance of working with a narrative and anecdotes to increase the relatability and to get away from the cold, monotone, “professional” and outdated lecturing style talks. I thought that talking about the dinosaur extinction and the snowball earth hypothesis were great talking points that incorporated all the above.
Debrief and the futre
A debrief session with Neil would be very beneficial to see whether I have met the clients’ requirements. I am confident that I have, however, there are surely points to take away that will enable me to grow. Please refer to the report for the debrief meeting.