UCT MOOCs have worldwide appeal

27 July 2015

More than 20 000 people from over 120 countries participated in UCT's first massive open online courses (MOOCs) offered in the first half of 2015.

UPDATE: The 'Medicine and the Arts: Humanising Healthcare' course will be offered again in September 2015. Enrollment is now open – sign up here.

MOOCs are free online courses in which classes can comprise thousands of participants from across the globe. In this regard, UCT's first two MOOCs, 'Medicine and the Arts' and 'What is a mind?' did not disappoint.

MOOCsThree body maps on the outer wall of UCT's Medical School library trace the outlines of a story of health and HIV – how the virus entered the body, and how a life journey has changed course since that time. These illustrations were made by three women in the Bambanani Group, and translated into mosaic by Lovell Friedman.

"Significant numbers of patients, healthcare practitioners and artists signed up for our first MOOC, 'Medicine and the Arts', making for a rich exchange of experiences and perspectives. The high level of social learning in both courses was both surprising and rewarding. Those logging on for modules actively participated in online discussions in response to video lectures, and reviewed each other's assignments," said Assoc Prof Laura Czerniewicz, director of the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT).

'Medicine and the Arts' explored the intersections of medicine, medical anthropology and the creative arts, while 'What is a mind?' looked at four aspects of the mind – subjectivity, intentionality, consciousness and agency – in order to come to a fuller understanding of what a mind is.

CILT's role has been to help academic course conveners design engaging learning pathways through an online course and to create short, powerful video lectures for use in this environment.

"The experience and skills gained in the partnership between the learning designers, video producers and academics in the course creation teams have already been useful in thinking about mainstream provision of online courses at UCT," explained Czerniewicz.

"A small percentage of those enrolled completed the entire course, but these numbers still add up to substantially more people than those who would normally take and complete these courses in their traditional formats," she concluded.

Story by Abigail Calata. Photo by Michael Hammond.

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