MOOCs on the Move

Friday, September 18, 2015

As MOOCs grow in influence and sophistication, they’re no longer simply reimagined in a Harvard classroom or even in a nearby studio. Recently, transforming a residential course — going digital viaHarvardX — included filming in far-flung Rwanda and Haiti.

Increasingly, professors are going to great lengths to ensure that the intellectual heft of the original class is maintained or even enhanced in a massive open online course, even if that means going halfway around the world to film material. That was the case with “Global Health: Case Studies from a Biosocial Perspective,” which looks at international health problems within their social and political contexts.

The course was developed by Arthur Kleinman, Esther and Sidney Rabb Professor of Medical Anthropology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Paul Farmer, Kolokotrones University Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School (HMS), and is currently taught by them with HMS’ Anne Becker, Maude and Lillian Presley Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine, and Salmaan Keshavjee, associate professor of global health and social medicine.

“The idea is that health care isn’t just a service you’re providing that is divorced from everything else around,” said Keshavjee. “You need to look at the politics, the economics, all the ethics of the social world. It’s a more holistic way of thinking.” Or, as Kleinman puts it, “We use social theory, history, and ethnography to provide a deep context for understanding public health problems and for improving implementation of public health interventions.”

As HarvardX project lead April Opoliner explains, the nature of the course is unique to Harvard. “It’s different from most global health courses in that it’s taught by four physician-anthropologists,” said Opoliner, who helped the faculty translate their vision as a combination digital producer, instructional designer, and content manager. Opoliner also has a doctorate in public health.

The trip to Haiti in December 2013 was one way of spelling out the mission to integrate social and political issues with health care. The Harvard on-site team — Farmer, Becker, Opoliner, and a videographer — spent a nearly 48 hours straight doing interviews and gathering footage.


Source: Harvard Gazette (link opens in a new window)

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