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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


4.7 rating, based on 64 Class Central reviews

4.2 rating at edX based on 6 ratings

Start your review of Strategic Communication for Sustainability Leaders

  • Anonymous
    The “Strategic Communication for Sustainability Leaders” is my first course on the Edx platform, it is a very good, efficient, and practical course, which I enjoyed. I am very glad that I attended the course, I learned so many interesting things. Th…
  • Profile image for Rui Viegas
    Rui Viegas
    The content is good and succinct, with good references and resources if you want to dive deeper into a specific subject. Some of the activities and the assessments at the end of each module makes you think about the subject more deeply, and what you…
  • Anonymous
    This course was a great introduction to science communications The videos were well presented and the content was fairly easy to understand and to incorporate into my line of work. I appreciated all of the quick quizzes to check understanding throughout the course. I also liked all of the additional resources that are provided throughout the program. I would definitelt recommend
  • Anonymous
    I enjoyed this course on science communication with a lot of examples for best practice. The lesson videos are short (rarely longer than 10 min) and on point. Learners are encouraged to engage with different materials and resources.
    However, the discussion activities are not very useful, as there are rarely participants answering to posts by their peers. I think it's a nice idea to exchange thoughts with other participants, but I'm afraid there are just too many taking this course, so it doesn't work out.
  • Anonymous
    Overall, I feel like this was a good course and I enjoyed it. It took a module or two to feel comfortable with the assessments, because the instructions of what to do on what page are quite confusing. Once you get the hang of the structure of each assessment, the directions become less confusing. Overall good content and experience.
  • Anonymous
    Course was interesting and made me think of additional ways to improve my science communication for my job. Some aspects of the course could have been shortened, ex. presentations, as most of the people completing this course have more than likely have quite a lot of experience with this already.
  • Anonymous
    This course was very insightful and provided information on effective ways of communicating science. The way the information was presented was clear and easy to go through. There is use of video presentations, readings and interactive activites. Definitely recommend this course.
  • Profile image for Hie Ling, Wong
    Hie Ling, Wong
    I find this course to be both easy to understand and comprehensive! Personally, I prefer learning in a structured manner, and this course has helped me to realise that what I've been doing in academia is actually a part of strategic communication.
  • Anonymous
    I thoroughly enjoyed the course and found it very informative. Information was delivered in bite-sized chunks with immediate reinforcement through quizes and activities. My thanks to the instructor and course designers.
  • Anonymous
    It is a good course to help develop communication skills in the sustainability sector. The knowledge assessments always provided good feedback to test the knowledge I recently just gained. Overall the course has helped me grow my knowledge and skills in creating visuals, using story telling tools, and skills to effectively communicate science across a broad audience.
  • Anonymous
    Great course but sound on the video tutorials could be improved. Technical and easily applicable. Step by step guide in how to create great presentations.
  • Anonymous
    Very well developed course , it cover all the principles for science communication , I also found the tools, websites very useful.
  • Anonymous
    The course was good, and gave clear elements and objetives regarding key elements of Science Communication.
  • Anonymous
    This course was great. Found it really helpful, learned lot of new ideas to use in my everyday task. Most importantly learned how to effectively communicate science. As a beginner level, this course was interesting and each module's lesson videos was relatively short and it made it clear and easy.
  • Anonymous
    This class had a well-rounded view of science communication and really helped give unique ideas to improve your science communication methods. The emphasis on using images, graphics, and creating charts really helped prove why these are the most effective ways to share science information. I enjoyed how the course was laid out, and walked you through the different phases of communication, and how science communication differs from science research and other forms of communication.

    Some sections I think could've been shorter (ie. Color section and presentation section), however the course overall was very useful and good!
  • Anonymous
    I really enjoy the suggestions and the guide towards a better science communication.
    While I was attending the course, I had to prepare some presentations and a poster for my company and I integrated the learnings in my communications. I prepared them with much more attention in respect to my standards. It helped me in focussing on some aspect that before I would have not taken so much into consideration.
    It helps in getting better in practice! I reccomend this course.
    As a suggestion, it would be helpful to receive personalized evaluations for the assessments.
  • Anonymous
    Overall I thought the course was great, my downfall was not having set deadlines and the self paced aspect I realized was not for me. As I could soon let my deadlines continue to slip. However I did think the material presented was fantastic and the presentation and offering was excellent for what this course is and how its offered. Overall I would take it again but just be more regimented on my own
  • Profile image for Sigit Ricahyono
    Sigit Ricahyono
    My background is in Linguistics, especially Discourse Analysis, Multimodal Discourse Analysis, Critical Discourse Analysis, Cultural Discourse Analysis, and Intercultural Communication. I love Linguistics when it can contribute in the real function of language, the means of communication. My knowledge especially Multimodal Discourse Analysis improves a lot after finishing this course.
  • Anonymous
    The course gives a very good overview of science communication and how to employ different tools to communicate with your audience more effectively. It contains many useful tips that can be implemented directly and easily in projects of your own, as well as further resources for dealing with specific topics in more detail.
  • Anonymous
    Excellent, useful, and updated information. I liked this course because it's not the typical science communication course based on only writing skills. The information is particularly useful for professionals that are out there facing the challenge of communicating their science to a variety of audiences.

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