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University System of Maryland

Strategic Communication for Sustainability Leaders

University System of Maryland via edX


Effective science communicators are in short supply during a time of unprecedented environmental challenges. As policy-makers, businesses, and communities seek solutions, the need for science communication skills will only grow. In this course, you will not only learn how to identify the tools of science communication, but will be able critique, refine, and develop them.

Any leader understands that data is the underpinning of competent decision-making. Complex systems require that data be presented in a clear and accessible format. You will learn to construct easy-to-interpret data visualizations that will enable you to build consensus and facilitate decisions across a broad spectrum of stakeholders.

Data tells us a story. Articulating and messaging this data-driven narrative to communicate the latest research is a key skill for any manager. You will learn to use proven techniques to develop such narratives so that you can effectively communicate complex data-sets to any audience.

Cogent science communication requires the effective integration of a captivating and accessible narrative with appealing multimedia data visualizations. These two new skills are the foundation for telling a larger story. Compelling “stories” are a proven approach to explain complex problems, involve the target audience, and motivate diverse stakeholders to work toward change.


Module 1:

  • Why is science communication important?
  • Iconic science communicators
  • The science behind science communication
  • What makes a good story?
  • Who are you talking to?
  • Narrative structure

Module 2:

  • Data Visualization Part 1
  • Data Visualization Part 2
  • 10 Classic Conceptual Diagrams
  • 10 IAN Conceptual Diagrams
  • 10 Classic maps

Module 3:

  • Storyboarding
  • Active titles
  • Storyboarding Process
  • Project Management
  • Seven Elements of Layout and Design
  • Layout and Design Examples
  • Critique and Review

Module 4:

  • Color Theory
  • Color Theory Basics
  • Color in Science Communication
  • Symbols and Diagrams
  • Symbols
  • Conceptual Diagram Creation
  • Conceptual Diagram Examples

Module 5:

  • Science Writing vs. Science Communication
  • Science Communication Products
  • Photos in Science Communication
  • Videos in Science Communication
  • Assembling a Scientific Presentation
  • Presentation Preparation
  • Delivering a Presentation

Taught by

William “Bill” Dennison and Richard Arnold

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4.7 rating, based on 19 reviews

Start your review of Strategic Communication for Sustainability Leaders

  • Anonymous
    going into this class i thought i was going to be filler, i figured it was just another university course that was going to be filled with useless information that i wouldn't be able to apply to the real world. well in short, i was wrong. this class did an excellent job of explaining each topic, showing you what works and what doesn't, explaining the difference in science communication and science writing. anyone that takes this class with defiantly have an edge when it comes to graphic visualizations and presentations. the lectures in the course were to the point and didn't drag out allowing the students time to be maximized and not wasted listening to long winded presenters.
  • Anonymous
    The course on Strategic Communication for Sustainability Leaders was a perfect match for young science communicator, who needs to disseminate scientific information to stakeholders and the public. The course is well balanced, contains listening, reading and activities such as discussions with other peers and students. You will learn how to work with storytelling, data visualization a the integration of visuals with narratives. You will learn and practice on different scientific communication products such as presentations etc.

  • Anonymous
    Coming from a nonscience background I thought this course was going to be very difficult but I was wrong. The lectures, notes, and other activities and discussions were very engaging which makes the course very well balanced. Scientific knowledge is important and how you disseminate that knowledge to your audience is even more important. This course teaches you to communicate with a diverse audience using various science communication components like storytelling, context, and other visual elements.
  • Anonymous
    This was my first course with Edx and I thought the class presentation and materials were clear and user-friendly. I enjoyed the projects and exploring the online resources.

    The only difficulty I experienced was trying to highlight and capture the pen. I felt the posting options were much easier to navigate, especially when the internet services I had accessible were weak.

    Great experience and I am looking forward to the next program.
  • Anonymous
    This course provides a great foundation for those who are working to improve their strategic science communication. I really enjoyed that this course was self-paced, which allowed me to learn at a speed I preferred. Course materials and structure was very clear, and I am happy to have taken this course and would certainly recommend to those who are looking to develop how they can share their science ideas in an effective and efficient manner.
  • Anonymous
    In easy to absorb modules, this course started with the history of how humans have communicated over the centuries and provided meaningful and memorable examples that have stood the test of time. With the understanding of how important images are for communication, the course continued by demonstrating the importance of color and scale. I feel that I can use all of the tools provided to prepare better presentations and materials.
  • Anonymous
    Great course for science communicators and advocates alike! As a whole, the course encapsulates the various aspects of strategic communication. In the weeks since starting this course, I have been able to apply the principles to my presentations as an environmental advocate. The modules covered the key areas that may seem simple, but are actually the most crucial elements to communicating information and recommendations.
  • Anonymous
    I found this course very useful outside the world of science communication. I think the content is applicable to business and the social sciences as well. As with all online course it was lacking a hands-on component that would really help reinforce the ideas learned through practice. Additionally, you got what you put in; you could breeze through the content or take your time.
  • Anonymous
    I found this course, as I am trying to improve my communication skills in my field. I was pleasantly surprised by the material and the little things I often overlooked when communicating, for example the impact of color (color theory). The course also provided great tools such a IAN and the message box which I would not have thought to use otherwise.
  • Anonymous
    great course, all the information was shared in an effective way. the videos were valuable and as a verified learner I got access to great extra content. The key points help you to understand better the important topics covered during the videos, and the speaker is also extremely good.
  • Anonymous
    Thoroughly enjoying the course. Everything I've learnt I've been able to apply to my work immediately, noticing positive outcomes not long after. I'd highly recommend this course to anyone involved in communicating complex information, scientific or otherwise, to diverse audiences.
  • Anonymous
    I really enjoyed this course. It opened my eyes for various communication areas that are very important for sustainability activities. The course lets you find your focused interests and lets you explore further. I enjoyed the activities for each module.
  • Anonymous
    Well presented and structured course, In the beginning, I wasn't sure was course I was looking for, but 1 week in and I upgraded to verified learner.

    Lots of great resources and information I believe will help my work in the future.

  • Anonymous
    Overall, a really good enjoyable course. The last couple of modules were perhaps a little simple, but that might just be because I'm more familiar with graphics and presentations.
  • Anonymous
    I had the pleasure of being part of the beta test group for this course and really enjoyed learning about an aspect of science that I was less familiar with. While I have a background in science, my professional trajectory led me to move over to the...
  • Anonymous
    I finished the beta test of the course, and I think that overall it is a good science communication course. The course introduces a lot of foundational communication concepts and provides multiple tips on improving communication through common mediums used within science communication. Also, it contains a lot of examples of science communication products, helping the course taker engage with the lessons. I learned a lot about what science communication is, and some best practices for it.
  • Anonymous
    I was a part of the pilot for this course. It is such a well-rounded training in applying principles and best practices. The experience of Dr. Bill Dennison is invaluable, and the activities allow you to try you hand at effectively communicating science. If you want to take you science communication to the next level, this is the course for you!
  • Anonymous
    I recommend this class. It's a great overview for those unfamiliar with how to communicate science concepts in an effective, engaging manner, which so few seem able to do! If you follow the suggestions as outlined in the course, you will be a much stronger, compelling speaker/writer in your science field.
  • Anonymous
    I really enjoyed this course and was very impressed with the quality of the content available for an online course. The videos were clear and the explanations were straightforward. The workload was much lighter than I expected too.

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