Evaluation of Biotech 101: An Educational Outreach Program in Genetics and Biotechnology. By Kelly M East
Background: Recent advances in research and biotechnology are making genetics and genomics increasingly relevant to the lives and health of the general public. However, literature has shown a low level of genetic literacy among both the general public and healthcare professionals. For the public to make informed healthcare decisions and participate fully in policy decisions relating to genetic information there is a need for increased genetic literacy. It was with this goal in mind that the Biotech 101 program was created by the Educational Outreach Department at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of Biotech 101 in achieving its goal of increasing the genetic literacy of program participants. Methods: Biotech 101 is a five-week educational outreach course for the general public, held on five consecutive Tuesday evenings, introducing participants to topics in genetics, genomics, and biotechnology. Program participants completed pre-test and posttest surveys consisting of both quantitative and qualitative questions. Increase in genetic literacy was measured by the change in self-perceived knowledge regarding topics covered through the course. Results: A total of 392 individuals have attended Biotech 101. Most participants chose to attend to increase their knowledge of genetics, biotechnology, and HudsonAlpha. Participants reported a significant increase in self-perceived knowledge in each content area, as well as an impact on their everyday lives and decisions. Qualitative responses expressed widespread appreciation towards HA for offering the course, as well as highlighted areas for improvement. Discussion: The results of this study will be used by the HudsonAlpha team for the development of future educational programming. In addition, the information can be used as a model for others in the genetic counseling and health education communities in the development and evaluation of similar programs.