Disruptive Innovation Moving Into Medical Education

I was hoping it was only a matter of time before medical education made its way to Coursera. For those not yet in the know, Coursera enables the best universities to put courses online at no cost to students. As of September 2012, Coursera claims a student body of 1.5M from approximately 196 countries around the world, and offers 195 courses from science and technology to the humanities to health policy. Course enrollment ranges from 10K to 130K students per class, and the company’s goal is to deliver high quality content at the lowest possible cost to anyone, anywhere that desires to learn something new. Daphne Koller, co-founder of Coursera and a Stanford professor of computer science, doesn’t see their model replacing brick and mortar higher education–just forcing its hand in order to kick the quality up a notch or two.

Recently, Mount Sinai Medical School began offering three courses through Coursera’s MOOC (massive open online course) format:

  1. Dynamic Modeling Methods for Systems Biology
  2. Introduction to Systems Biology
  3. Network Analysis in Systems Biology

(Additional Mount Sinai’s offerings can be found here, and all of Coursera’s biology offerings can be found here.)

How will this format benefit, or detract from, a medical education? What format yet to be made mainstream would best fit medical training? Educational technology catch phrases like “blended learning” and “1:1 technology” seem like two elements that would easily enhance any learning environment without too much trouble, but how quickly are these new learning methodologies being accepted, implemented and adopted in medical schools? For more information on educational trends–see the Edtech Digest blog, and for the related new vocabulary, see this recent post, Trends–Infographic: Edtech Cheat Sheet.

In an earlier ETY post, The Changing Educational ParadigmMOOCs had just recently been opened up to a mainstream audience and I promised to report back on my own exploration. I highly recommend without reservation trying it out firsthand, as there is a topic for everyone, and being able to access the site 24 hours a day allows for flexibility. I only wish I needed fewer hours of sleep than I do to function! My first course, Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World, required students to read a classic work of literature each week, and as such, held more content than my current work-life could balance. The video lectures I viewed, however, were entertaining, insightful and provided in-depth analyses of some of the very best literary works, such as Dracula, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Frankenstein and The Martian Chronicles.

The consummate student, I’ve since explored a second MOOC, Gamification, offered by Kevin Werbach Associate Professor, The Wharton School, Univ. of Pennsylvania. This course was much more manageable than my first exposure to this exciting new educational format, and as a result a record 8,280 students earned a certificate of completion. The Gamification class had 80,000 students from around the world, with one of the most active self-application rates of all Coursera courses, and a very active Twitter stream to accompany the discussions and meetups–see #gamification12 for more information. A short explanation of the course follows if interested:

On Tuesday, the Coursera servers were down according to their Twitter feed. Quite honestly, I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often given the number of users accessing this site on a daily basis. The speed with which this educational model was adopted around the world is amazing. It speaks to the hunger we have for knowledge, and the need for high quality content. Regarding the collaboration and global networking opportunities? They are endless, and have only just begun to play out. In fact, if anyone knows how to get in contact with the decision-makers at Coursera, please contact me. I know a great Patient Safety & Quality elective that should be added to their offerings!

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One Comment on “Disruptive Innovation Moving Into Medical Education”

  1. “Disruptive Innovation Moving Into Medical Education | Educate the Young” in fact causes myself ponder a tiny
    bit more. I actually loved each and every individual part of this
    blog post. Thanks ,Maira


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