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April 19, 2016

Health & Social Care MOOC Roundup

I’m working on a couple of MOOCs in health sciences. To get my bearings on this new subject area and find out what other MOOCs in the discipline are teaching, I’ve been looking at the content for a handful of healthcare MOOCs. I’ll probably audit the courses rather than working through all of the assessments and discussions, but this should help with the brainstorming process on our own project, in terms of the types of content that work well.

If you’re working on an open education project in health science, you might find them helpful, too. Here’s what I’ve found, so far:

Practical Improvement Science in Health Care: A Roadmap for Getting Results

Platform: EdX

Institution: Harvard

Duration: 6 weeks, 2-4 hours per week

Pacing: Synchronous

Enrollment: 10k+

What they’ve done well:

  • Provides ‘Continuing Education Units’ for healthcare professionals to accredit their work.
  • Some videos have a few multiple choice questions alongside them so that learners can check their understanding.
  • Self-check at the end of the week helps the learner to make sure they’d completed everything.
  • Peer-review opportunities
  • Students work through a project for the duration of the course, which encourages them to stick with it

What could be improved:

  • The pre-course survey is long and tedious
  • Too much reliance on lecture-style talking head videos
  • Text-heavy, lacks good UX and visuals

 

Medicine and the Arts: Humanising Healthcare

Platform: FutureLearn

Institution: University of Cape Town

Duration: 6 weeks, 3 hours per week

Pacing: Synchronous

Enrollment: Unknown

What they’ve done well:

  • Infographics and images have been incorporated into the videos – it’s not just a static background
  • The photographs and graphics are well done and memorable
  • The subject is presented in an interdisciplinary way
  • Further readings are incorporated into the lesson text
  • They have incorporated Padlet, giving learners an opportunity to share and comment on imagery

What could be improved:

  • Heavy reliance on talking head videos
  • Mostly passive learning
  • Discussion has not been prompted as well as it could have been, so the volume of discussion posts is lower than others I’ve seen.
  • I don’t see any synchronous activity from the course leads (i.e. week review videos, hangouts or other signs that they are working alongside the learners)

Improving the Health of Women, Children and Adolescents: From Evidence to Action

Platform: FutureLearn

Institution: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Duration: 6 weeks, 4 hours per week

Pacing: Synchronous

Enrollment: Unknown

What they’ve done well:

  • Some videos are actually slide presentation (lecture) with voiceover. This creates a good variety of material. They have used visuals to explain, and infographics to display data.
  • Week summary videos

What could be improved:

  • Some graphics could be improved. Lack of visual consistency.
  • Lack of synchronous activity from the course leads
  • Heavy reliance on videos esp. Talking heads
  • One of the lecturers was very shouty and the audio recording wasn’t great in a few of the videos

 

The Many Faces of Dementia

Platform: FutureLearn

Institution: University College London

Duration: 4 weeks, 2 hours per week

Pacing: Synchronous

Enrollment:

What they’ve done well:

  • Discussions were prompted well, and there seems to be a lot of learner activity in the there
  • There is a Q&A at the end of the week where course leads answer the most common questions found in the discussion boards.

What could be improved:

  • Mostly videos and articles. More variance in activity types would be a positive thing.
  • This is mostly a presentation of information, rather than a course. There are short quizzes at the end of the weeks, but the learners are not actively doing things like submitting project work or doing peer evaluation. I realize that this is partly a symptom of the subject matter, but the material is very limited in its interactivity.

The Impact of Nursing

Platform: FutureLearn

Institution: University of Liverpool

Duration: 4 weeks, 3 hours per week

Pacing: Synchronous

Enrollment: Unknown

What they’ve done well:

  • Good variance of content types, including word clouds, Padlet, quizzes, peer reviewed assessment, interactive timeline, videos, graphics and activities.
  • Optional readings provided as links or PDFs so that students don’t have to buy books or dig through journals

What could be improved:

  • It’s hard to say because the course is only part-way through, but so far I think it’s been well done.

 

eHealth

Platform: EdX

Institution: Karolinska Institutet

Duration: 6 weeks, 5-6 hours per week

Pacing: Self-paced

Enrollment: Unknown

What they’ve done well:

  • Opportunities for active learning and sharing
  • Use of Zeemaps to give some context about where learners are located
  • Some of the talking heads are interviews, which livens things up a bit
  • Short quizzes are dispersed throughout, so that the learner can regularly check understanding
  • Quick polls exist within the content, and learners can see what answers others have selected
  • An exit survey is included, which is useful for further research. I’d be inclined to cut it down, though, as I suspect most learners won’t bother to answer so many questions

What could be improved:

  • A self-paced course misses the opportunity for instructors to work alongside learners, and for cohorts to develop, so the learning experience is rather isolating. I’d surmise that, while self-paced courses might get more learners joining overall, they probably also suffer from higher attrition.
  • Discussions are not monitored due to self-pacing, so they are not prompted, just left open. This means that opportunities for focused discussion are missed.

 

Global Health and Humanitarianism

Platform: Coursera

Institution: University of Manchester

Duration: 6 weeks, 1-3 hours per week

Pacing: Self-Paced

Enrollment: Unknown

What they’ve done well:

  • Incorporation of case studies throughout
  • Additional readings clearly highlighted

What could be improved:

  • Very text-heavy
  • Lack of visual consistency. I’d have redrawn the graphics to a visual style standard.
  • Coursera presents its discussions in forums, so you have to dig around an awful lot. A cleaner display and filtering system would help people to jump in and out of conversations more fluidly.

 

Take the Lead on Healthcare Quality Improvement

Platform: Coursera

Institution: Case Western Reserve University

Duration: 5 weeks, 5-7 hours per week

Pacing: Self-Paced

Enrollment: Unknown

What they’ve done well:

  • ‘Quick questions’ are place (optionally) in the sidebar so that students can choose whether or not to provide feedback. Each question is on its own, followed by a ‘next’ button, so that learners are not greeted by an overly long page when they begin.
  • This is the first time I’ve seen any pre-course work (surveys and knowledge assessment) which is a unique approach that might be useful in some cases.

What could be improved:

  • There’s a lot here. At ten modules, each with surveys, quizzes and a peer reviewed assessment, it would take a very dedicated learner to see it through from beginning to end without skipping anything.
  • Much of the learning is passive.
  • I think they’ve underestimated the learning time by quite a margin.

 

Fixing Healthcare Delivery

Platform: Coursera

Institution: University of Florida

Duration: 9 weeks

Pacing: Self-Paced

Enrollment: Unknown

What they’ve done well:

  • The course begins with a compelling, personal story
  • Peer review opportunities
  • Mentors and Instructors have made a point to reply to many of the discussion threads

What could be improved:

  • Video lectures are slide-based. Instructor is obviously using a teleprompter and delivery is rather clunky
  • Heavy reliance on videos and dense readings. Limited active learning opportunity
  • Assessments are rather vague and feel like an afterthought

 

General Observations

The FutureLearn platform is superior to the others, in terms of the design and user experience. Most of the other platforms are fairly outdated and clunky, design-wise. I do wonder if it may be a little restrictive, from a course producer’s perspective, though. I like that it has a discussion attached to every learning step, as these seem to get used fairly frequently and serve to create a community of learners. Their existence will make more work for the course lead who has to monitor them all.

On EdX, I like that the videos have transcripts that run alongside them. The current voiceover text is highlighted, so it’s easy to keep your place. The more high-achieving students will skim through the transcript rather than watching the video anyway, so this helps to save them time. It also appeals to the students who prefer to hear information, and those who prefer to read it.

Overall, I’ve found these MOOCs disappointing in that they nearly all rely heavily on video and text. There are limited opportunities for active learning. I haven’t seen much in the way of interactivity or graphic explainers throughout the MOOCs, which is a real shame. The health science material would lend itself to highly engaging data visualisations and graphics, so there’s a big missed opportunity here. The web is an interactive medium, and this offers many opportunities for activity and personalisation. But in almost all cases, the MOOCs I’ve seen are highly reliant on the passive watching of video lecture.

It could be a symptom of the types of course I’m looking at, or simply the nature of academia itself, but there does seem to be a lack of diversity here. Too often, it’s a middle-aged white male in the talking head videos I’ve watched. I have other issues with talking head videos, but that’s another story! I do think there’s a responsibility here to make sure the faces of these MOOCs are representative of the global audience they are aimed at. I’d love to see more female course leads, a diversity of age range, and people of varied ethnicities.

Have I missed any health & social care MOOCs that you enjoyed? Are you developing one? Let me know on Twitter and I’ll update this list.