MIT | Gradcommx

Instructional Design Solutions To Promote Professional Research Communication Skills

The MIT Office of Graduate Education (OGE) strives to foster academic excellence and support for quality of life for MIT’s graduate student population. In the winter of 2016, in response to findings made by the Task Force on Graduate Student Professional Development, the OGE embarked on a mission to find the best way(s) to connect the entirety of the MIT graduate student population with high-quality professional development resources in communication, as a first area of focus within the defined set of professional skills. The resulting project was called Gradcommx, a multifaceted instructional design solution to promote professional skills for the target audience of MIT graduate students.

Over the course of 2.5 years, Gradcommx tested a variety of pedagogical approaches using different media to support professional development for graduate students at MIT. Gradcommx resulted in numerous educational resources using modern media such as comic books, podcasts, live micro-workshops, and an online gamified course, along with research on the efficacy of each of these approaches for the target audience.

Gradcommx was developed with the OGE in collaboration with professors and graduate students at MIT, along with production specialists with expertise in audio, film, and graphic design. In the final year of the project, the Teaching & Learning Lab teamed up with Applied Curiosity Educational Research to evaluate the efficacy of the various instructional approaches.

One of the central features of Gradcommx design was attention to how the target audience — graduate students at MIT — interacted with and benefited from the diverse instructional media. The graduate student body at MIT is diverse with multifarious communication needs, so a wide range of resources needed to be developed that could appeal to students regardless of their external audience.

Each of the mediums developed for Gradcommx were evaluated for user engagement and perceived efficacy. Throughout the duration of the project, feedback from the target audience helped to shape the development of further instructional materials, such as an on-demand course that could be completed independently and connected users to rich communication resources.

As opposed to live workshops which are limited to only a few participants or unidimensional professional development tools that have minimal engagement from participants, the design of Gradcommx resulted in unique and entertaining resources that could capture the attention of busy students and introduce essential communication skills.

The professional development resources continue to be available on a website designed for Gradcommx, and the work continues to inspire the creation of instructional materials for professional development for graduate students.


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