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Knowledge UnboundJoe Cepeda

Knowledge Unbound

Three Ways the Web is Transforming Public Health Education

Degrees of Distance

In 1997, the School offered its first online courses, enrolling 36 students in a Graduate Certificate Program in Public Health sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Since then, online learning has become central to the School’s mission, and many onsite courses have gotten better as professors work with experts in the Center for Teaching and Learning with Technology (CTLT), says James Yager, PhD, senior associate dean for Academic Affairs and the Edyth H. Schoenrich Professor in Preventive Medicine.

106: Online courses scheduled for 2011–2012

CTLT now has 28 staffers who work closely with faculty to make the online experience as rich and accessible as possible, both for distance learners and for students taking onsite classes supplemented by online materials.

In the 2010–2011 academic year, online course enrollments reached 5,214, with full-time, onsite students accounting for 46 percent of those enrollments, perhaps taking online courses to ease scheduling conflicts or explore additional subjects, Yager says.

More than 400 students are currently enrolled part time in the Internet-based MPH Program, earning up to 80 percent of their credits through online courses. They complete their remaining coursework—and meet other students in their cohort—onsite in Baltimore or in Barcelona, Spain.

Yager, who teaches both online and in the classroom, says he often has more interaction with students in online classes. “The online students use bulletin boards and they post questions there and you can look up who they are,” he says. On the other hand, he says, students in online courses are “not here, having lunch together,” and do not enjoy quite the same range of course offerings.

“It isn’t a matter of one being better than the other, it’s [just] a different experience,” he says.

15: New courses offered for 2011–2012

The Price Is Right: Free

Ira Gooding gets queries from all over the world—from educators, health officials and independent learners—requesting permission to use the Bloomberg School materials on OpenCourseWare (OCW).

His answer: You don’t even have to ask.

OCW, launched at the School in 2005 with a three-year grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, allows users to access material at no charge. In the year ending mid-November, attracted 251,528 unique viewers from 1,981 cities around the world.

“People who cannot come to the School for a wide variety of reasons can still benefit from the educational resources produced in the teaching that goes on here,” says Gooding, MA, educational resources coordinator for the Center for Teaching and Learning with Technology (CTLT), which develops the materials for online users.

107: Number of courses available on OpenCourseWare

There are no exams with OCW, and users don’t receive academic credit. Participants include “the independent learner who wants to brush up on a topic, maybe a municipal health worker, or an educator putting together a course, and they’re looking for material so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” says Gooding.

In developing countries in particular, OCW provides public health information that might not otherwise be available. As one participant wrote: “Understanding the concept of social and behavioral theory will help me achieve the community blood donor mobilization strategy I am implementing in Nigeria.”

The courses—on subjects including biostatistics, refugee health, HIV/AIDS and mental health—are offered as a combination of audio lectures, PowerPoint slides and reading assignments. They are readily available for noncommercial use through a Creative Commons licensing agreement, and are continually enriched and updated by users, who make changes such as adding illustrations or translating to other languages.

Biostatistician John McGready, PhD ’07, MS, says he’s pleased to reach more people through OCW. His materials with additional features like online class discussions are also available online for credit, which users must pay to access, so “it doesn’t create economic competition,” he notes.

Says McGready of OCW, “I certainly have benefited from people putting their materials out there, and I felt like I should return the favor.”

331,626: OpenCourseWare site visits made from Nov. 2010 to Nov. 2011


This forum is closed
  • Md. Tauheed Ahmad

    India 02/16/2012 10:59:13 PM

    I am working on sensitizing doctors to the tobacco problem in India and I recommend the online course to our participants. Thank you IGTC!

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