Assessing Students’ Enterprise Skills in an Online Workshop

Assessing Students’ Enterprise Skills in an Online Workshop

Drs John Barrow and Pietro Marini, School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition


Drs John Barrow and Pietro Marini, School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition explains how students can develop their innovation and enterprise skills in an online environment.


A video presentation that highlights what the workshop session looks like, with a brief commentary can be found at the following link.


As part of our SM1501 (The Cell) course - a course for approximately 400 first year bioscience students - we run a workshop with the Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE) called the Future Lab. This workshop allows students to work through a structured, formative activity that culminates in them creating an idea for a future ready piece of laboratory equipment. The overall aim of the workshop is to provide students an opportunity to demonstrate innovation and enterprise skills and then self-assess their own skill set to make sure they are ready to enter an uncertain future job market.


The Future Lab workshop was originally planned as a face-to -ace session, but with one week to go the workshop was cancelled due to the impact of Covid-19 and the course ended prematurely. We therefore developed a fully online variant of this workshop in collaboration with SIE, which we then ran through our online paperless laboratory software called Lt. This system is used by Medical Science courses to run paperless laboratory sessions, but it proved hugely beneficial in creating the online Future Lab workshop as it allowed students to work with a familiar software and also provided structure to a self-guided piece of work. As our course had effectively ended, the session was not compulsory but students were encouraged to work through a series of structured exercises that ultimately culminated in the same outputs as they would have seen should the session have been run on campus and in-person


Even though this formative assessment session was not compulsory we had 170 out of 379 students (45%) starting the online session and 95 students (25%) completing the session. This number of students taking a non-compulsory workshop during a time when the course had completed and they were also potentially enduring a huge amount of personal upheaval, we took as a very positive sign that this workshop had been viewed as beneficial and had some impact and worth to out students.  For those students who completed the workshop, feedback from the course feedback highlighted this workshop as being beneficial with comments that, “the instructions were clear and very useful”; “it is a good way to give us the procedure and information without using paper”; and “it was easier to use online than having lots of paper, could go back and review/change answers easier”.


Recently we published a Case Study on the Future Lab (see link) as an on campus face to face experience. Further to this case study we are in the process of gathering quantitative and qualitative data for a longitudinal study to evaluate the impact of this workshop session on our students as they move through their degree programmes. Students who took part in the workshop this year, last year and two years ago have been interviewed in focus groups plus data was collected following each workshop session for the past three years to see the short, medium and longer term impact of the workshop on student perceptions of enterprise skills.


The workshop has been published as a Case Study in Compass: Journal of Learning and Teaching and as a Swap Shop Presentation at the University of Aberdeen 11th Annual Academic Development Symposium (April 2019). The impact and perceptions of students has also been captured through a survey that participants are asked to complete at the end of the workshop session, so we have also begun analysing data from this year’s cohort to understand how they perceived the online session and plan to include this in our future work in this area.