St. George’s University MOOC Has 60% Completion Rate

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

Completion rates for MOOCs are notoriously poor, with a median rate of 12.6%. But there are exceptions. Dr. Satesh Bidaisee’s MOOC, One Health, One Medicine, had a 60% completion rate. Bidaisee is a professor at St. George’s University, Grenada, West Indies. The following is a transcript of our interview from Aug. 7 through Oct. 3, 2017.

ETC: What made you decide to offer this course as a MOOC?

Bidaisee: Chancellor Charles Modica’s vision is to provide access to an SGU education to as many students as possible. Chancellor Modica is the founder of St. George’s University and has spent his life working towards educating a global community of students and alumni. The advent of online technology provides another avenue for SGU to provide educational access to a wider audience.

I am also passionate towards education. A background as a survivor of a motor vehicle accident, a ruptured aneurysm, and testicular cancer have provided sufficient experience to motivate me to contribute to the learning development of others as a purpose in life.

ETC: One of your course objectives is “To demonstrate effective oral skills for communicating with different audiences in the context of human, animal and environmental health.” How do students “demonstrate oral skills”?

Bidaisee: Through live seminar sessions, recorded presentations.

ETC: Can you give us an example?

Bidaisee: Students prepared, presented and recorded oral presentations, which were shared with the course community and peer assessed by colleagues. Diseases such as Lyme Diseases, West Nile Virus, Ebola, etc. were discussed in the context of having applications for human health, animal health and environmental considerations.  

The topic of vector Borne diseases was most common with Chikungunya and Zika being prominent. Special emphasis was placed on new and developing technologies towards mosquito control including using Wolbacchia spp for viral transmission control and Genetically Modified Mosquitoes for mosquito control.

ETC: Are your “discussion blogs” sync or async? What media do you use?

Bidaisee: Asynchronous, and the SGUx platform, which is a modified EdX platform, is used. We relied on recorded lectures throughout each module for students to access at their convenience within the course period. Reading materials and case studies were reserved in a reference library to access at their convenience.

The SGUx platform used tools specific to delivering the course, e.g., professor chat linked to Twitter to interact with students, discussion boards for discussions, peer review evaluations of recorded presentations. Fascinating activities.

ETC: Can you tell us more about the activities?

Bidaisee: The real-time interactions on the discussion boards and social media platforms allowed for the course community to engage in conversations about presently occurring global health issues. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa and travel associated cases elsewhere is an example where discussion on international health regulations, social and cultural aspects of health, as well as emerging infectious diseases, were fully examined and discussed.

The peer review evaluations of presentations allowed for students to participate in a very constructive and mature part of the course assessment but also raised the standard and quality of the presentations as students recognized that their audience was a truly global one.

SGUx was also a user-friendly domain where the entire course was viewable on the home screen.

ETC: Are “Certificate” and “credit” synonymous? Do all completers receive a certificate of completion? Or only those who pay the fee and pass the exam? How are the exams proctored?

Bidaisee: The credit for the course is in the form of continuation education credits by the U.S. National Board of Public Health Examiners and only available after passing the comprehensive exam as well as payment for the credit. The comprehensive exam is proctored. The certificate, which is separate, is based on completion of the course requirements and is available to all those who complete the exam

ETC: Is the completion certificate (without the credit) useful for students? Can you give us a few specific examples?

Bidaisee: Some students found the completion certificate without credits useful especially those from non-US locations. There were students who used the course as a scholarly activity towards their job performance evaluation for promotion.

ETC: Can you give us examples of how the earned credit helped specific students?

Bidaisee: Earned credit counts towards continued education, which is a requirement in several health-related jobs. This course can serve as an appropriate activity to pursue professional development credits also towards maintaining license to practice in various professional disciplines as well as maintain board certification or fellowships. The comprehensive exam is proctored.

ETC: How many students were enrolled in the most recent course offering?

Bidaisee: 874.

ETC: “Almost 60%” completed the course. What are the raw numbers?

Bidaisee: 524.

ETC: How many chose to pay the fee and take the exam?

Bidaisee: 60.

ETC: How many passed the exam?

Bidaisee: 58.

ETC: What were the stats for the population?

Bidaisee: Age mean: 24, range: 14-67; sex: 67 females, 33 males; occupation: diverse but mainly healthcare; ed background: high school to retired professors; national origin: over 50 countries.

ETC: Are applicants screened before admission to the course? How? Percentage of those accepted?

Bidaisee: No screening, open access.

ETC: How do you motivate students to actively engage in class activities?

Bidaisee: The students represent a diverse learning community and engage in an interactive way. We provided fun examples and entertainment including songs to develop and sustain interests.

ETC: Tell us about your support staff.

Bidaisee: Our team comprises one professor, one instructional designer, one technology strategist, and one course editor. The instructional designer was very instructive towards the design and delivery of the course by providing technology tools. The course editor supported the recording and finalizing of recorded content as a professional product. The course team has a lot of experience in One Health One Medicine and is very passionate about the topic, which translates, for the students, into an inspiring experience. Each of the team members had interactions with the students whether through troubleshooting, navigating through the course platform, etc.

ETC: Tell us about the learning community that you developed.

Bidaisee: The OHOM MOOC offered by St. George’s University developed a learning community throughout the course experience. While the student body ranged from hundreds to over a thousand, everyone became familiar with each other. The first activity for the course was for everyone to post a brief biodata, which gave a general sense of who was involved in the course.

Also, during weekly live sessions, all students and the course team spent time introducing each other and sharing their backgrounds and interests. The course community also remained in communication through the use of social media, including Facebook groups and Twitter. The course team established that all correspondence and queries as well as postings and discussions will be responded to within 24 hrs.

The course team also made themselves available during live office hours for students to interact personally, and the application of video conferencing tools enables both audio and video interactions. These synchronous forms of communication complemented the asynchronous course content. Furthermore, the cross-communication with the course team and students and among students supported an engagement of the course community, which built shared interest and fellowship as part of the learning experience.

The interactive experiences for the MOOCs from St George’s University occurred across annual course offerings and even after the course completion as the course community remains in communication through social media. These experiences have allowed for a network of colleagues and friends to be established over time.

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