UpSkill program in practice

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We asked professor Balázs Szigeti who has been involved in the UpSkill program since its beginning, September 2019.

What are you doing exactly in this module?
The "Explore level" of the Oral Communication Skills module is designed for students who scored high in related assessment tasks during their first year. By the time they come here, they have already studied, for example, debating and presentation skills. Our module can therefore build on their existing knowledge and expand them to new horizons. We do not have to spend time discussing the basics of presentations but can explore what makes speeches and also everyday communication really powerful. We do not have to discuss debating from the basics but can utilize argumentation experience in negotiation situations. The module focuses on miscellaneous topics in the first half, like interview tactics, pitching to investors, creating a video CV; and then it turns to the exploration of public speaking tactics, which improves skills that can be transferred into any oral business communication situation.

What are the main goals of the UpSkill program?
IBS conducted research about what skills are most in-demand at workplaces and designed the UpSkill Program to equip students with these skills so that they can be successful candidates on the job market as well as enhance key employability skills through differentiated development in small groups, practice-based seminars and by applying an interactive, learning-by-doing approach. See more here.

What are your experiences so far? Can you give us a specific example of a talent that you especially appreciated or felt challenging?
The module is still in its experimental phase. Since those students come here who scored the highest in related skills, there are two major challenges. First, they shouldn't feel that the course is repeating earlier modules, but at the same time, it is also essential that we revise the basics, build on them and provide lots of opportunities for practice. Second, one can see that the students are critically monitoring the material and progress in the classroom and want to see how much they are profiting from each class. The course must meet their needs so probably it will be adapted accordingly throughout the semesters based on the success of each class and the students' feedback.

On the other hand, it is very rewarding to teach this course and there are excellent outcomes in the final assessment. Some of the video CVs (check out one here) were very clever and creative while regarding the "inspirational public speech" they have to deliver at the end of the semester, there were some performances where I told students that they are ready to take this talk to a TED conference. Furthermore, we can apply experimental techniques in the teaching process, like Pecha Kucha presentations or improvisational workshops. The latter is especially good for students to learn to consciously use and interpret voice and body language and to focus on the communication partner(s) instead of themselves.

How can you measure success at this point? Any student feedback?
Student feedback is invaluable at this stage and it is not only the written evaluation at the end of the semester but you can feel during each class how it works out. Students were generally positive about the material and the practices but there is always plenty of room for improvement. For example, to avoid the danger of the aforementioned repetition, debating will be taken out next semester and more focus will be given to negotiation tactics and practice.

BSc programmes at IBS