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Penn State Science Offering Free Online Infectious Disease Course

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21 February 2013

MOOC_MOOCimage_2013.jpgDisease outbreaks and pandemics have occurred around the world throughout history and continue to occur today; the United States is not immune. In fact, the 2012-2013 flu season in the United States has been one of the worst in years. Fortunately, the potential for the flu or other infectious diseases to be deadly in developed countries has been greatly reduced. Had you been born 150 years ago, however, your chances of dying of an infectious disease before you've reached age of 5 would have been extremely high.

Science has come a long way in understanding infectious diseases - what they are, how they spread, and how they can be prevented. But diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and the flu are still major killers worldwide, especially in lesser developed countries, and novel emerging diseases are a constant threat to public health around the globe.

On February 21, Penn State joined the leading massive open online course (MOOC) platform, Coursera, making it possible for the University to provide courses on a vast scale and open higher education to hundreds of thousands more students than was previously possible. Penn State and 28 more institutions now join universities such as Princeton, Brown, Columbia, Stanford, and Duke, in providing Coursera course offerings to the masses.

The Eberly College of Science is offering one of the five free courses provided by Penn State. Epidemics - the Dynamics of Infectious Disease will be taught by eight outstanding faculty members, including Marcel Salathé, Ottar N. Bjornstad, Andrew Read, Rachel A. Smith, Mary L. Poss, David P. Hughes, Peter Hudson, and Matthew Ferrari. The course, which begins on October 15, 2013, will run for eight consecutive weeks. Over 2,000 people have already signed up for the course during the first five days of the registration period.

The University plans to use the innovative MOOC platform to advance key University priorities, including showcasing faculty expertise, testing innovative learning strategies, engaging with communities around the world and attracting students to continue or begin their education at Penn State, either in-person or online.

The infectious disease course will consist of video lecture and animations for the majority of the instruction. It will cover key concepts that relate to the emergence, the spread, and the control of infectious disease epidemics, including:

  • The basics: history of infectious diseases, basic concepts of disease dynamics, parasite diversity, evolution & ecology of infectious diseases
  • Emergence of diseases: The basic reproductive number, critical community size, epidemic curve, zoonoses, spill over, human / wildlife interface, climate change, hot zones, pathology
  • Spread of diseases: transmission types (droplets, vectors, sex), superspreading, diffusion, social networks, nosomical transmission, manipulation of behavior
  • Control of diseases: drug resistance, vaccination, herd immunity, quarantines, antibiotics, antivirals, health communication, ethical challenges of disease control
  • The future of infectious diseases: Evolution of virulence, emergence of drug resistance, eradication of diseases, medicine & evolution, crop diseases & food security, digital epidemiology

Sound interesting? Want to learn more about infectious diseases and how they can affect you? All you need is an internet connection and a few hours each week to view the video lectures.

Learn more about the course and sign up today.

Read more about Penn State's additional MOOC offerings.

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