First University of Nebraska MOOC to focus on health literacy

Within a year of announcing its partnership with Coursera, a leading provider of massive open online courses, the University of Nebraska is offering its first MOOC to individuals interested in improving their health literacy and communication skills.

Enrollment is now open for the course, which will be taught by Dr. Denise H. Britigan, assistant professor in the Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The course will begin Oct. 19. It is free and open to anyone who is interested.

“Our goal in joining with Coursera was to provide a platform for our faculty to build on the University of Nebraska’s long history of providing high-quality education to students regardless of location. With this new MOOC – our first – we are doing just that,” said NU President James B. Milliken. “I’m very pleased that our faculty are taking advantage of this opportunity to better serve students in Nebraska and around the world. While MOOCs are of course just one strategy, they represent an exciting opportunity to expand access to our rich coursework and talented faculty to many more students.”

The course is eight weeks long and requires about three to five hours per week of work, including readings and instructional videos. Students who successfully complete the course will receive a “statement of accomplishment” signed by Dr. Britigan. Students will not earn University of Nebraska credit by completing the course.

Dr. Britigan noted that two-thirds of the U.S. population reads at an 8th-grade reading level or below – and that when it comes to health information, reading levels are even lower. This presents a challenge for health professionals who need to give patients medication instructions, for example, or explain behavioral changes that will help improve their health.

“As a professional community, we need to make sure we’re communicating health information to patients in a way that they can understand it,” she said. “There are a variety of strategies and skills that can be used in health communications, and the goal of this course is to share those skills so that we can serve patients more effectively. I’m excited to be taking advantage of the MOOC format to make this important course content available to all students who are interested.”

NU’s partnership with Coursera gives all four NU campuses the opportunity to explore and develop courses that use the platform.

Mary Niemiec, associate vice president for distance education and director of the University of Nebraska Online Worldwide, noted that the university remains committed to delivering degrees via distance education. Through the Online Worldwide website, students have access to more than 100 online degree, certificate and endorsement programs offered by the four campuses and this will continue to be a priority as the university works to expand access to more Nebraskans and others seeking a flexible, quality education and valuable credentials.

“University of Nebraska Online Worldwide was established to help meet the access goals of our university, and MOOCs are one way in which to accomplish that,” Niemiec said. “I look forward to continuing to work with our faculty and our campuses in exploring opportunities to reach more students.”

More than 100 leading institutions in the U.S. and beyond partner with Coursera, collectively offering more than 600 diverse courses in the humanities, medicine, biology, social science, mathematics, business, computer science and others. The courses are open to anyone wishing to acquire new skills, advance his or her career or simply learn new information.

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