PMCCPMCCPMCC

Search tips
Search criteria 

Advanced

 
Logo of f1000resSubmitAuthor GuidelinesAboutAdvisory PanelF1000ResearchView this article
 
Version 2. F1000Res. 2017; 6: 1699.
Published online 2017 December 27. doi:  10.12688/f1000research.12639.2
PMCID: PMC5717472
Other versions

Utility of massive open online courses (MOOCs) concerning outbreaks of emerging and reemerging diseases

Guido Bendezu-Quispe, Conceptualization, Methodology, Writing – Original Draft Preparation, Writing – Review & Editing,1 Junior Smith Torres-Roman, Writing – Original Draft Preparation, Writing – Review & Editing,2,3 Brenda Salinas-Ochoa, Writing – Original Draft Preparation, Writing – Review & Editing,4 and Akram Hernández-Vásquez, Methodology, Writing – Review & Editinga,5,6

Abstract

The emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases such as Ebola, chikungunya, and Zika increase the necessity of knowledgeable and skilled health professionals. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) arise as opportunities that allow people around the world to participate in higher education courses. A search was conducted on specialized MOOC platforms to find courses related to outbreaks, using terms included in the list of the WHO disease outbreaks from January 1st to December 31 st, 2016. We found seven courses about Ebola, two about Zika, three about the dynamics of epidemics and pandemics, and only one course about dengue, chikungunya, and malaria. Most of the courses were conducted in English. The courses on Ebola, Zika and chikungunya were released after their last outbreak. MOOCs could be used to learn about health issues of global relevance, and with the necessity of fast divulgation of knowledge and skills. Translating the courses into more languages could give these courses more traction, and allow participation of professionals in regions affected by these outbreaks.

Keywords: education, public health professional, education, distance, health education, education, medical, continuing; disease outbreaks, hemorrhagic fever, Ebola, Zika virus, chikungunya fever

Introduction

The emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases is partly due to the climate change, more specifically due to the rise in global temperature, as well as the increased migration and unplanned urbanization 1. These events of great relevance to global health have turned these unknown diseases into realities many health professionals have to face daily.

Ebola virus causes an acute and severe disease that is usually fatal if left untreated. Its last outbreak in March 2014 was the largest in history, causing a dramatic number of more than 11,000 deaths and 28,000 new infections worldwide. It affected several countries in West Africa, generating much concern worldwide due to its estimated 50% mortality rate. Similarly, diseases such as chikungunya 2 and Zika 3 have shown several reasons to be considered serious infectious diseases.

Given the pandemic potential of these viral diseases, it is important to assess the knowledge and awareness of our health professionals regarding the mode of transmission of these diseases. In this era of globalization and technology, one of the main impacts of the Internet and the web 2.0 have been the acceleration of the process of sharing information, allowing health professionals to have quick and easy access to the latest research in medicine and health 4.

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are online classes or lectures accessible for people all around the world that want to participate in higher education courses. MOOCs material includes videos, slideshows, discussion boards, quizzes, audios or any combination thereof. Usually, participants do not pay any fee to take a course. The topics in MOOCs vary widely and include science, engineering, and arts; and are usually developed by well-known figures in the study area 5.

Methods

From 1 st May to 31 st May, 2017, we conducted a manual search on several learning platforms that offer MOOCs, including Coursera, edX, FutureLearn, Udacity, Miríada X, Alison, FUN.MOOC, Canvas Network, and Iversity to find courses about disease outbreaks using the terms included in the list of WHO disease outbreaks from January 1st to December 31st, 2016 ( Box 1). Information about the learning platform, institution, course length, time required per week, language and subtitles availability for every course were collected and reported using frequencies in the case of categorical data and ranges for numerical data. If the information about the course was not available on the learning platform that originally offered it, we use the information provided by MOOC aggregator platforms such as Class Central and MOOC List

Box 1. List of terms included in the manual search for MOOCs about disease outbreaks, 2016

epidemic(s), pandemic(s), outbreak(s), emerging diseases, re-emerging diseases, Ebola virus disease, Ebola virus, Ebola, ébola, EVD, viral hemorrhagic fevers, hemorrhagic fever syndrome, Zika, Zika virus, Chikungunya, Chikungunya virus, Lassa, Lassa Virus, MERS-CoV, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, Yellow fever, Lassa fever, Human infection with avian influenza, Oropouche virus, Rift Valley fever and Wild polio and vaccine derived polio

Source: WHO, Emergencies preparedness, response. Diseases outbreaks by year, 2016. http://www.who.int/csr/don/archive/year/2016/en/

Results

We found seven courses about Ebola, two about Zika, three about the dynamics of epidemics and pandemics, and only one course about dengue, chikungunya, and malaria. The duration of the courses ranged from 2 to 10 weeks. 11 out of 13 courses were held only in English, with the possibility to select subtitles in English or other languages; there was one in English and Chinese, and only one exclusively in Spanish. Most courses (5 out of 13) originated from to USA centers including Emory University, University of Pittsburgh, The Pennsylvania State University, Harvard University and University System of Maryland. The information provided with the courses included audiovisual material, papers, and self-assessments. All the courses were made for health-related professionals and presented information about epidemiology and lessons about the outbreaks and prevention activities for a possible new scenario of transmission of infectious diseases. The courses on Ebola, Zika and chikungunya were released after the last outbreaks of these diseases, respectively ( Table 1).

Table 1.

Characteristics of the massive open online courses (MOOCs) about disease outbreaks of 2016, offered by learning platforms.
PlatformTitleInstitution (Country)Duration
in weeks
Hours
per week
Language
(Subtitles)
FutureLearnEbola in Context:
Understanding Transmission,
Response and Control
London School of Hygiene
and Tropical Medicine
(United Kingdom)
2Self-pacedEnglish
(English)
FutureLearnEbola: Symptoms, History
and Origins
Lancaster University
(United Kingdom)
23English
(English)
FutureLearnPreventing the Zika Virus:
Understanding and Controlling
the Aedes Mosquito
London School of Hygiene
and Tropical Medicine
(United Kingdom)
34English
(English)
CourseraEbola: an evolving epidemicEmory University (USA)6Self-pacedEnglish
(English)
CourseraEbola: Vaincre ensemble!University of Geneva
(Switzerland)
5Self-pacedFrench
(French,
English)
CourseraEbola: Essential Knowledge
for Health Professionals
University of Amsterdam
(Netherlands)
9Self-pacedEnglish
(English,
Arabic)
CourseraIn the footsteps of Zika…
approaching the unknown
University of Geneva
(Switzerland)
85English
(English,
French,
Portuguese,
Spanish)
CourseraEpidemics, Pandemics and
Outbreaks
University of Pittsburgh
(USA)
43–4English
(English)
CourseraEpidemics - the Dynamics of
Infectious Diseases
The Pennsylvania State
University (USA)
82–3English
(English)
edXLessons from Ebola:
Preventing the Next Pandemic
Harvard University (USA)43–4English
(English)
edXGlobal Health – The Lessons
of Ebola
University System of
Maryland (USA)
62–3English
(English)
edXEpidemicsThe University of Hong
Kong (Hong Kong)
102–3English,
Chinese
(English,
Chinese)
edXETV: Paludismo, Dengue y
Chikungunya
The Ministry of Education
of Mexico (Mexico)
210Spanish
(Spanish)

Data on 2016 massive open online courses about disease outbreaks, offered on learning platforms, retrieved from manual searches

The dataset contains information on the learning platform, institution, course length, time required per week, language and availability of subtitles.

Copyright : © 2017 Bendezu-Quispe G et al.
Data associated with the article are available under the terms of the Creative Commons Zero "No rights reserved" data waiver (CC0 1.0 Public domain dedication).

Discussion

Finding MOOCs about Ebola, chikungunya, and Zika after the start of their last outbreaks demonstrates the interest of institutions in offering information to the public. The vast majority of courses are offered in English, with a few having subtitles in other languages. MOOCs offer a recent and emerging form of education. There is a continuous increase in the number of courses offered in this format and, by 2015, a total of 35 million participants in 4.200 MOOCs were counted, with 8.27% of these courses corresponding to health and medicine.

The spread of diseases makes it necessary to invest in alternative methods of spreading knowledge, to improve the capabilities of health professionals in topics that affect people worldwide. MOOCs could be used to learn about health issues of global relevance, and with the necessity of fast divulgation of knowledge and skills. Because the countries most affected by these diseases do not have English as the native language, promoting the translation of content into more languages could give these courses more traction, and allow participation of professionals in regions affected by these outbreaks.

Data availability

The data referenced by this article are under copyright with the following copyright statement: Copyright: © 2017 Bendezu-Quispe G et al.

Data associated with the article are available under the terms of the Creative Commons Zero "No rights reserved" data waiver (CC0 1.0 Public domain dedication). http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/

Dataset 1: Data on 2016 massive open online courses about disease outbreaks, offered on learning platforms, retrieved from manual searches. The dataset contains information on the learning platform, institution, course length, time required per week, language and availability of subtitles. DOI, 10.5256/f1000research.12639.d177854 6.

Notes

[version 2; referees: 2 approved]

Funding Statement

The author(s) declared that no grants were involved in supporting this work.

Notes

Revised. Amendments from Version 1

This new version adds information on the methods, mentioning that MOOC aggregator platforms were used when information about the courses was not available on the platforms that offered that courses before. In the results, now there is a clarification that notes that all the courses founded about MOOCs and outbreaks had been made for health-related professionals.

References

1. Kilpatrick AM, Randolph SE.: Drivers, dynamics, and control of emerging vector-borne zoonotic diseases. Lancet. 2012;380(9857):1946–55. 10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61151-9 [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
2. Weaver SC, Lecuit M.: Chikungunya virus and the global spread of a mosquito-borne disease. N Engl J Med. 2015;372(13):1231–9. 10.1056/NEJMra1406035 [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
3. Gulland A.: Zika virus is a global public health emergency, declares WHO. BMJ. 2016;352:i657. 10.1136/bmj.i657 [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
4. Lupiáñez-Villanueva F, Mayer MA, Torrent J.: Opportunities and challenges of Web 2.0 within the health care systems: an empirical exploration. Inform Health Soc Care. 2009;34(3):117–26. 10.1080/17538150903102265 [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
5. Hew KF.: Promoting engagement in online courses: What strategies can we learn from three highly rated MOOCS. Br J Educ Technol. 2016;47(2):320–41. 10.1111/bjet.12235 [Cross Ref]
6. Bendezu-Quispe G, Torres-Roman JS, Salinas-Ochoa B, et al. : Dataset 1 in: Utility of massive open online courses (MOOCs) concerning outbreaks of emerging and reemerging diseases. F1000Research. 2017. Data Source [PMC free article] [PubMed]

Review Summary Section

Review dateReviewer name(s)Version reviewedReview status
2017 December 5Shirley Ann Williams and Tharindu LiyanagunawardenaVersion 1Approved
2017 September 29Mohamed A GoudaVersion 1Approved

Approved

1School of Systems Engineering, University of Reading, Reading, UK
2University College of Estate Management, Reading, UK
Competing interests: No competing interests were disclosed.
Review date: 2017 December 5. Status: Approved

This is an interesting research note identifying MOOCs relating to emerging and re-emerging diseases. The work in its current form is acceptable as a research note, and the conclusion that such MOOCs need to be available in more languages is an important point.

If the authors are to extend their work there is scope for improvement:

  1. The search window was very limited, it is possible that MOOCs that had completed would not be found. Adding MOOC aggregators (such as Class Central) to the search areas could have identified more courses, than those on offer in May 2017.
  2. There are many barriers to accessing MOOCs, especially in developing countries, for example access to computers, connectivity, digital skills, as well as fluency in international languages. Consideration of all potential barriers will be important in future work.
  3. The target audience of the MOOCs is not clear in this report, and there may be benefit in classifying courses that are aimed at health professionals and those aimed at the general public. Then considering whether there is  benefit in a direct linguistic translation for particular MOOCs.

We have read this submission. We believe that we have an appropriate level of expertise to confirm that it is of an acceptable scientific standard.

Approved

Mohamed A Gouda, Referee1
1Faculty of Medicine, Menoufia University, Shebin Al-Kom, Egypt
Competing interests: No competing interests were disclosed.
Review date: 2017 September 29. Status: Approved

This is a nice short report from the study conducted by Bendezu-Quispe G  et al. about the existence of MOOCs with focus on emerging and re-emerging diseases. The idea is simple, and so is the methodology. However, I have concern regarding the time frame selected for the study which was limited to the year 2016. Some of the outbreaks highlighted in the background started in earlier years and were terminated in 2016. I think that more valid and strong data could have been provided if there were no time limits thus allowing for exploration of MOOCs presented at the time of epidemics. Otherwise, authors have properly presented their data. I believe their work would be a good start for further exploration of this area.

I have read this submission. I believe that I have an appropriate level of expertise to confirm that it is of an acceptable scientific standard.


Articles from F1000Research are provided here courtesy of F1000 Research Ltd