From Michigan to Mauritius: U-M Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for Health Professions Education Engages Faculty Worldwide

Dr. Sushil Dawka is a Professor of Surgery at SSR Medical College in Mauritius, an island nation off the southeastern coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. Dr. Dawka completed “Instructional Methods in Health Professions Education” in August 2013, a University of Michigan Medical School MOOC taught by Dr. Caren Stalburg. Dr. Dawka recently reached out to us to share his experience and take-aways from the course and why, as SSR’s Academic Program Director & Quality Assurance Officer, he’s recommending it to his colleagues.

How did you originally hear about the course in August 2013?

Over the last year, I have completed a number of MOOCs, mostly on Coursera and edX. I was delighted to come across U-M’s Coursera MOOC on “Instructional Methods in Health Professions Education” as this is a subject in which I have both a professional interest and an amateur’s passion.

What did you enjoy the most about the course?

Dr. Stalburg’s course on “Instructional Methods in Health Professions Education” combines a basic but solid grounding in modern andragogical theory with real-world illustrations of what constitutes good teaching for health professionals. Overall, the enduring strength of this course is that it teaches teachers to learn by reflecting upon their own teaching.

The academic content was of great value, and the modalities of content delivery (including such intangibles as lecturing style and ‘atmosphere’) were exemplary. I think the most enjoyable part of the course was the way in which the often dry principles of good teaching were brought to life, not only by Dr. Stalburg’s friendly yet riveting lecturing style, but also by brilliant planning, pacing, and presentation of the curricular material.

Indeed, this is a course about good teaching that is, in itself, a model of good teaching.

Is this your first experience with an online course? If not, was it different from your previous online course experiences?

I have taken over 30 MOOCs and I have no hesitation in saying that this course stands out as an exemplar of how online teaching should be run. My previous MOOCs have been on subjects peripheral to, or far removed from, my professional interests, and I have therefore looked upon them as a purely ‘academic’ as opposed to ‘applicable’. This course touched directly upon my professional activities and I am glad that I grabbed this opportunity to improve upon my skills as a medical teacher. Even at this hard-boiled stage in my career, as I plan lectures, frame MCQs or conduct simulations, I find myself reflecting profitably on what I learned in the various modules on this course.

Was there anything challenging about the format?

Based on my experience with other MOOCs, I was less than enthusiastic about the peer assessment exercises, as most courses fail badly here. However, I found that not only were the exercises educational in both the submission and the evaluation phases, but also the standard of submissions was higher than in most other courses, high enough to make time spent reading and assessing the work of fellow learners worthwhile.

Discussions and interaction on the forums were a class above the average course; Dr. Stalburg seems to have attracted a subset of highly motivated MOOC learners, judging by the academic quality of their contributions to the discussion forums and peer-reviewed exercises.

Have you had an opportunity to apply what you’ve learned from the course? Can you share an example?

Yes, in many small yet startling ways I find that the ideas and principles put forward in the course are helping shape my thoughts and tweak my practice of teaching. Moreover, I have collected a lot of good ideas regarding remediation of poor performance and encouraging student interaction from the discussion threads.

Do you have plans for using this course in the future?

I am happy that the course material–lectures, peer-reviewed exercises and discussion threads–remain archived, and therefore accessible, on my Coursera dashboard. In addition, I intend to audit the course again, as I find the forum discussions engrossing. I shall actively recommend every iteration of this course to both existing and newly inducted faculty at my medical college. Meanwhile, I eagerly look forward to Dr. Stalburg’s team’s next tour de force.

Register Today!

Click on “Learn for Free” and then register today to join Dr. Stalburg, Dr. Dawka’s cohort, and a new group of students on Coursera for the next iteration of “Instructional Methods in Health Professions Education.” You can also access the course materials at anytime on Open.Michigan.