Experiential education is a growing trend worldwide and there has been a surge of programs promoting work-integrated and experiential learning in Canadian higher education institutions. A 2018 study on experiential learning and pathways to
employment for Canadian youth by Universities Canada, submitted to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, highlights the need for “a sustained national vision and an ambitious experiential learning strategy to support our young people and ensure their future success.” Experiential education is perceived to be the future of learning. Studies have shown that it accelerates learning and acquisition of skills relevant to the changing labor markets; it has the potential to bridge the gap between theory and practice; enables mindset changes and personalized learning; increases collaboration and engagement levels; surpasses traditional learning programs in return on investment; and has potential to provide accurate assessment results.
Our experiential learning program provides unique opportunities for students from the STEM disciplines to receive advanced science communication training. The focus is on building leadership abilities and other employability skills that can make them competitive in the current labor market. In addition, the training aims to spark individual creativity, encourage collaboration and teamwork, and inspire students to become savvy writers, public speakers and social media communicators.
We help the next generation of scientists develop skills that will be instrumental in meeting their future workplaces’ demands for engagement of diverse publics on a variety of communication platforms. With science and technology innovation becoming instrumental to our knowledge-based economies, we are faced with emerging developments in the life science and biomedicine sciences that are highly controversial and have incited intense ethical and policy debates (e.g., vaccines, gene-edited babies, predictive genetic testing, unproven stem cell therapies, heritable genetic modification). In the current environment of “post-truth” politics and growing public distrust in science, scientists are challenged to go beyond conventional public outreach and become dynamic public communicators through online and social media engagement. There is an increased need for science communication training that keeps up with the rapidly changing scientific and technological landscape and engages citizens in a meaningful dialogue on the future of science and technology.