Jul 5, 2013

Medical Neuroscience in Coursera has just finished


Medical Neuroscience, taught in Coursera by Duke’s Dr. Len White, has finished. This intense course was designed to include the core concepts in neurophysiology and clinical neuroanatomy in most first-year neuroscience courses in schools of medicine, with an estimated time commitment of at least 16 hours/week. Now that the course is over, how did it go?

Medical Neuroscience, taught in Coursera by Duke’s Dr. Len White, has finished. This intense course was designed to include the core concepts in neurophysiology and clinical neuroanatomy in most first-year neuroscience courses in schools of medicine, with an estimated time commitment of at least 16 hours/week. In Start Your Synapses!, course assistant Justin Johnsen provided a view into the course as it was running.  Now that the course is over, how did it go?

A course like that takes a lot of time and effort. Every part of MedNeuro speaks quality. It’s entirely in a different league from any other Coursera course I sampled. Not only it is intense, and probably the biggest in terms of hours of video per week among others, but the lectures were obviously well thought over, rehearsed and recorded with re-takes as nesessary. And then somebody obviously tried it out and re-arranged the lectures so that watching would be more smooth. I could go on and on – I notice such details, as I used to do e-learning for a living. Dr. White and his team put in tons of effort to create this.

I’m a NICU RN and I just want to say how pleased I was with myself a few nights ago. I was looking at the MRI of my neonatal patient (congenital hydrocephalus due to aqueductal stenosis, cranial synostosis (fused crainal sutures), absent corpus callosum and fusion of the midbrain structures) and was able to identify and (to myself) name the structures I saw in the imaging, including sulci and gyri, without any help. Also, being able to totally understand the radiologist’s detailed report (instead of looking up previously unfamiliar terms) was SO very gratifying.
Thank you again Prof White and staff for this wonderful course.

Who took the course?

  • 18,433 students have streamed or downloaded videos from the course
  • ~2600 watched all videos
  • 1,868 students have posted on the discussion forum at least once
  • ~26,800 discussion forum posts and comments
  • 8362 students attempted the pre-quiz (self assessment for background knowledge)
  • 4311 students attempted the unit 1 quiz
  • 2485 students attempted the unit 2 quiz
  • 1737 students attempted the unit 3 quiz
  • 1234 students attempted the unit 4 quiz
  • 942 students attempted the unit 5 quiz
  • 906 students attempted the unit 6 quiz
  • 880 students took the Functional Anatomy exam
  • 840 students took the comprehensive final exam
  • 590 students earned a certificate
  • 166 students earned a certificate with distinction
  • 372 students enrolled in the Signature track
  • 44,980 students have enrolled in the class

Besides participating in the discussion forums, students formed a Facebook group and followed the twitter hashtag #medneuro and the twitter account @MedNeuroMOOC.

The pre-course survey was completed by 7,584 students representing 152 countries.

Every minute I’ve spent in this course, has been probably the best moments of knowledge-gaining I have had, perhaps, in all my years as a medical student in a third-world country, not because there isn’t enough knowledge sources or because we speak different languages, but mainly because there probably isn’t ONE person who would go as far as Dr. White has gone only for the sake of knowledge, and to make it seem so enjoyable makes me, in particular, much more interested and devoted to learning. I personally want to thank Dr. White for teaching us, making us grow and develop into more mature, critical-thinking human beings, and giving us probably one of the biggest opportunities of sharing our own experience, knowledge and understanding.
Thank you.

How was student knowledge assessed?

  • floating brain6 quizzes
  • 2 exams
  • 2 peer assessments (1 was graded)
  • 36 posts in the discussion forums

Read more about assessment design.
How much video?

  • 196 videos
  • 45 hours, 38 minutes and 37 seconds of video lectures
  • Longest video: 31 minutes 10 seconds
  • Shortest video: 4 minutes 2 seconds
  • Average video length: 13 minutes 58 seconds

Watch the conversation on a Google Hangout with Dr. White and his students.

I’ve been in a computer related field for over 25 years, and this is the first course that has genuinely given me
a) a feel for what it would take to change life path to something equally complex, but entirely unrelated
b) inspiration enough to want to change
c) enough detail to give me confidence that I can bridge the two worlds.

This course has also whet my appetite enough that I am looking at ways to qualify through biology and medicine to hopefully one day meet the folk at Duke through my studies.

While very challenging to fit work, life and family commitments, this course is inspirational enough to change life goals and aspirations for the second half of my working life.
Thanks Professor White.

Dr. White created the course outline, created and edited most of the videos, provided the guitar soundtrack, and wrote all of the assessments and in-video questions. Laboratory lessons with human brain specimens were captured by Duke Media Services. Justin Johnsen tracked all of the materials, set up the course layout in Coursera, uploaded all the videos and assessments to the correct area, implemented the grading formula and monitored the discussion forums. Sulochana Naidoo reviewed most of the videos and quizzes for quality and helped set up and maintain the course. I managed the project and nagged about the course development timeline.

I read the Chronicle of Higher Education every week and get Inside Higher Education as a daily online newsletter. I’ve followed the endless discussions of MOOCs and marvel at the defensive reactions of many faculty members who are speaking from outside the experience. If you compare what was available in Dr. White’s course with the kind of low level presentation of material that is available locally to many people via community colleges etc., it’s only a matter of time before the world wakes up to discover that it IS possible to deliver online educational content in a way that will forever redefine higher education. It’s been a thrill to be part of something at its best. This course is truly “state of the art”.

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