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UNYOC Professional Development Award blog post – Elizabeth Yates

21 Jan 2022 5:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

*This post is shared on behalf of Elizabeth Yates, one of the 2020 Professional Development Award Winners*

I am profoundly grateful to UNYOC for professional development funding which I used to help cover my tuition for a postgraduate certificate program in Research Methods for Health via the University of Aberdeen. While sadly I did not get to visit the 525-year-old Aberdeen campus in person or sample any Scottish whiskey, I did greatly enrich my understanding of how research into health should be conducted and disseminated. I took four courses as part of the program, which has always been offered entirely online:

- Fundamentals of Research Design: this course covered the development of research questions, identifying appropriate study designs and relevant outcomes and how to collect data. Critical appraisal, research ethics and scientific communication were also covered. Our major assignment was a research proposal worth 80% of our course grade, which was quite daunting! I feel much more confident about conducting my own research, supporting students and understanding others’ research after taking this course.

- Evidence-Based Health: understanding how to conduct evidence syntheses was the main focus of this course, so it was highly relevant to my work as a health sciences librarian – especially the chance to use RevMan systematic review software. In addition to working through the stages of conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis, we also studied how evidence is used to shape health policy and practices e.g. via clinical practice guidelines.

- Qualitative Health Research: we explored the value of qualitative research in a health context and learned about a wide variety of qualitative methods. I really enjoyed this course, which solidified my personal preference for, and appreciation of, qualitative research.

- Applied Statistics: the bane of my existence! This course concentrated on applying and interpret statistical analysis for health research, with a particular focus on using SPSS statistical software. While I found the material extremely challenging (I was reduced to tears of incomprehension on more than one occasion), I actually ended up doing quite well overall.

I appreciated many things about the University of Aberdeen programming, including the extensive support provided for students. The program director and most instructors were very helpful and kind. University policies were clearly stated and easily available from within our learning management system (LMS) – no need to hunt through layers of webpages to find the info you need. The LMS itself was well-designed and easy to use, and the course synopses (aka syllabi) provided clear details about course content and learning outcomes for students. It was really interesting to be part of a community of learners from all over the world.

However, there were several challenging aspects. Most courses were taught by several different instructors, who delivered their content with marked variations in style and substance (the worst was an instructor who simply assigned a massively dense reading and expected us to learn everything we needed to know about their topic that way.) I found learning completely online to be a rather lonely experience, although there were live tutorials for some courses which provided opportunities for personal connection. For some courses, students started WhatsApp chat groups which were a lifesaver – it was so helpful to talk about our struggles with the material and share tips with each other. I also struggled to keep on top of the timing for synchronous class sessions, which varied week to week. It seemed like as soon as I finally mastered converting Aberdeen time to my home time zone, there was a time change in either Scotland or Canada and I had to figure things out all over again!

Experiencing student life myself has heightened my empathy for students. Now that I’m heading back to work, I look forward to continuing to support our learners with compassion and to implementing my new knowledge to help advance research creation and dissemination at my institution.

Elizabeth Yates

2020 UNYOC Professional Development Award Winner

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