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Virtual Work Experience week

4 August 2020

From Monday 29th June to Friday 3rd July, the School of Biochemistry ran its Work Experience week virtually for the first time.

In the days pre-COVID-19, the School of Biochemistry was organising a week of work experience for Year 10 pupils with backgrounds from underrepresented groups ​and, in particular, the University sponsored school of Merchants Academy.

The scheme was very popular, so participant numbers were increased to 20 to accommodate the demand and the targeting focused on schools with high BME student numbers. As schools closed and we went into lockdown, hopes of work experience for pupils all over the UK faded. It was clear that this was going to be one of the year groups that would miss out on important planned opportunities. Given our switch to digital teaching, we decided to still run a form of our work experience - virtually.

Using the eBiolabs ​Community site (www.ebiolabscommunity.org), we were able to upload a mix of stationary and interactive content, give activities to do, and provide on-line support for Q and As. As the content is available at any time, there is no pressure for pupils to log on at a specific time of day; an important factor in the current circumstances where families might be sharing the use of devices for working, or schooling, at home.

Daily introduction presentations were emailed to pupils and schools via YouTube links, the views of which show we have more than doubled our audience using this virtual format. With more local schools asking for the content for them to send out to pupils in the last week of term, our views are set to increase further and some schools have asked if they can use the content later in the year to provide much needed support for this cohort of pupils. Some of the feedback from schools included:

"Your filmed guide is excellent and contains everything our students need to access the programme"

"Thank you very much for thinking of us and sending us this tremendous resource"

Nothing beats hands-on practical experience when studying STEM subjects, but the eBiolabs ​Community site allows us to still give some form of experience of the techniques used. It also allows us to reach a larger number of pupils ​who are widely spread geographically, compared to our face to face teaching. We will look to expand the content we have on the site, to allow our important Widening Participation/Outreach work to continue during these times, with a particular aim of reaching those pupils who need it the most. 

Content for the work experience week was provided by Dr Caroline McKinnon and Dr Alejandro Lorente Pons.

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