On Oct. 31, the Yale School of Public Health debuted its first massive open online course, “Essentials of Global Health,” on the website Coursera.
Richard Skolnik ’72, a global health specialist and former Yale lecturer, oversaw all academic aspects of the MOOC, according to Elizabeth Bradley, faculty director of the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute, who was also involved in creating the MOOC. She said that while Skolnik led the initiative, the production of the MOOC was a team effort involving students, faculty and staff members. The MOOC is accessible to anyone with a Coursera account, which can be created free of charge.
“[The MOOC] presents the challenges and opportunities for protecting and promoting human health around the world,” Bradley said. “The course is punctuated with many case studies, the latest evidence and the controversies in diverse approaches to global health. There is something for everyone in the online class, and it is exceptionally high quality and comprehensive.”
Bradley said she advocated for a MOOC in global health taught by Skolnik in response to Yale’s efforts to identify “strategic places” for the creation of online courses.
According to Skolnik, the course materials for the MOOC were derived from his book “Global Health 101,” as well as slide shows and other resources that he had previously used to teach introductory global health classes at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Skolnik said that the course addresses five key aspects of global health problems: the nature and severity of the problem, the most affected demographics, why these groups are affected more than others, why people everywhere should care about the issue and the quickest, most cost-effective way to sustainably address the problem.
Skolnik described these elements as the core of all his work in global health.
He said that the video sessions for the MOOC were filmed at Yale in a model classroom — a process that took between 400 to 500 hours. Six students participated in the sessions, all of whom had been taught by Skolnik in the past, either at Yale or at George Washington University, where he taught from 2001 to 2012.
Lindsey Hiebert SPH ’16, who worked as a research assistant on Skolnik’s latest textbook, helped coordinate the production of materials for the MOOC. In particular, Hiebert said she managed the production of course slides by consulting Skolnik’s textbook and collaborating with a graphic designer.
“[With this course] anyone in the world can be introduced to global health, be excited about it and learn the core principles that will help them pursue further study,” Hiebert said.
Skolnik said that the team responsible for the MOOC designed and delivered the course in a way that would benefit a variety of audiences. He anticipates that many learners will be people from all over the world who are interested in global health but do not necessarily have access to a “comprehensive introduction” to the topic. Skolnik added that the course can be used as a complement to teaching and learning by instructors and students at Yale and elsewhere.
Dean of the School of Public Health Paul Cleary said the school had already been considering the importance of adapting to new educational technologies and expanding distance-learning initiatives before Skolnik expressed an interest in putting his course online.
“The course was really our first full-blown venture into the area [of distance learning] and we are very excited to see how it is received,” Cleary said. “We’re definitely going to be expanding our activities online and in distance learning [initiatives].”
The course is composed of six modules and 51 online video lectures.