MOOCs draw in the crowds to the iTunes of higher education
The University of NSW and the University of Western Australia have this week announced they have partnered with US-based education company Coursera, the largest provider of massive open online courses (MOOCs).
Described by the dean of the Australian School of Business at UNSW Geoffrey Garrett as like the “iTunes of academe”, MOOCs are high-quality online courses provided by top universities for free over the internet.
On Monday, for example, the University of Tasmania went live with its first MOOC, an online dementia education course that so far has 6500 registrants from around the world, with 2500 logging on to start the course within 24 hours of going live at 9am.
The MOOC, Understanding Dementia, has been developed by the Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre, based in UTAS's Faculty of Health Science.
Co-director of the Wicking Centre, James Vickers, said the goal was to improve the quality of life for people with dementia, their families and carers.
"Understanding Dementia has been structured as a complete and comprehensive course of 11 weeks duration, with the goal of providing quality evidence-based information about dementia,” Professor Vickers said.
While UTAS is not yet part of the Coursera platform, UNSW and UWA join the University of Melbourne and 85 other top-quality universities from around the world in offering MOOCs, which while not designed to provide an academic credit on completion, can assist students preparing for university or professionals wanting to extend their knowledge.
For healthcare professionals, there are already a range of courses available on the Coursera site. These include courses like introductory human physiology from Duke University, which is designed as preparation for students preparing to apply to medical schools or health science programs like nursing and physiotherapy.
That course is recommended as an introduction to one of the University of Melbourne's courses on exercise physiology, presented by Mark Hargreaves, which examines the physiological responses to acute and chronic exercise with a focus on skeletal muscle, energy metabolism, the oxygen transport system and temperature and fluid balance.
The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing provides a range of courses, including care of elders with Alzheimer's disease and other major neurocognitive disorders, and the science of safety in healthcare. Johns Hopkins also offers a course in major depression in the population: a public health approach.
For health informaticians looking to extend their knowledge, there is a case-based introduction to biostatistics course from the Bloomberg School of Public Health, along with one on web intelligence and big data from the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi.
Both UNSW and UWA expect their first courses to be online in the first half of next year, with UNSW indicating it would start with its strengths in science and engineering.
Posted in Allied Health