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St. Michael’s gets MOOC-y

Toronto, October 1, 2013

By Emily Latourell

What is a MOOC?
What is a MOOC?

Dr. Prabhat Jha is developing St. Michael’s first MOOC for the University of Toronto: Death 101.

MOOC is an acronym for “massive open online course,” which is a new way to make higher education more accessible to the masses and making the experience more interactive than a typical lecture format.

Students of all ages and education levels around the world can log onto MOOCs taught by renowned professors from some of the most prestigious universities in the world, including Harvard and MIT. Most are taught at the level of an advanced high school or introductory undergraduate university level.

Dr. Jha’s MOOC, which will be taught in the spring, will be one of the first at the U of T taught through the edX, a site that hosts MOOCs taught by professors at the world’s most prestigious universities.

Dr. Jha, director of the hospital’s Centre for Global Health Research, said that by instructing students on “how to use information to improve health in a country” he hopes to encourage more students to pursue careers in public health, economics and global health. His course will focus largely on his Million Deaths Study, which examined the causes of death for a million people in India and which he hopes to expand to a number of other developing countries.

Dr. Jha’s course will differ from typical university courses because it will be more interactive, and will use real world problems for the students to examine. Students will learn by watching videos, having discussions with one another and completing a variety of assignments that are graded by their peers as well as Dr. Jha and course administrators. Students do not have to pay to take MOOCs, but they also do not receive credit toward their university degrees. The purpose of MOOCs is to make higher education available to the masses at no cost.

Toward the end of the course, students will choose a country and analyze how effectively that country is determining the causes of death. Students will then make recommendations for how to create country profiles on vital statistics and causes of death. Finally, the students will write to political leaders of that country to share their analysis.

Analyzing the causes of death in the developing world is important because the knowledge can make “huge differences in public policy…since determining the cause of death can impact how public health policy is developed,” Dr. Jha said.

About St. Michael’s Hospital

St Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.