‘Physiology for all’ MOOC

Physiology has become a whole lot more accessible. Enrolment for a MOOC in physiology, developed together with the University of Liverpool, opened on 10 July, 2017.

The MOOC, funded by The Physiological Society and hosted by FutureLearn, will start running for the first time in September 2017. It will provide a free, online learning opportunity to smooth the transition for 16-19 year olds hoping to progress to university to study a related life science or medical degree. It will build on key physiological concepts taught at A-level (or equivalent). You can learn more from Pete Alston, the Project Lead at the University of Liverpool, here.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are university-led, distance-learning courses that are freely available to the general population via the internet. Since the introduction of MOOCs around a decade ago, MOOCs have had varied press, but finally appear to be finding their place in the education arena. We believe that the accessibility and flexibility they offer (they are free to anyone with an internet connection, and can be accessed online at any time) will provide educators with an opportunity to reach a wider demographic. From The Society’s perspective, this approach allows us to provide extended learning to those that want it – regardless of their geography or background – and by doing so we hope to feed the pipeline of physiologists. Furthermore, it will support the generation of high-quality resources that will be available indefinitely.

As you can hear in Pete’s interview, the MOOC will cover 3 topic areas: cardiovascular system, the respiratory system, and the nervous system. Each topic will be introduced by physiologists, following which there will be opportunity for self-directed learning including data gathering, analysis and moderated peer discussion– approaches that are common to undergraduate study. There will also be information about careers in and from physiology. Completing the MOOC will support students who wish to extend their understanding of physiology and inform their degree choices.

Although the target demographic for this course is 16-19 year olds, we are aware that this is not reflective of the “typical learner” (although anecdotal evidence tells us that teachers do recommend MOOCs for extending learning); learners tend to already possess one or more degree and, although this demographic may not be going on to be a physiologist, they may be a grandparent, mother or father; may be a politician or policy maker, and they will almost certainly be voting. As such the MOOC really is for all, and also serves to increase the profile of physiology amongst a new audience and promote the work of The Physiological Society.