Imagine a scenario where the best teachers on the planet gather to offer students a free feast of learning from a plentiful buffet of subjects.
EdX, a non-profit consortium representing the world's top programs of higher education including The University of Texas System, comes pretty close to that perfect academic world as it showcases online courses taught at no charge by world-class faculty members. The studies, known as massive open online courses (MOOCs), are available via the web to students anywhere in the world.
There are no prerequisites or application processes for edX courses, and registration is open to everyone. The virtual "classroom” is open 24/7 providing students the opportunity to view the learning modules at their convenience, any time of day.
Originally created in May 2012 by founding university partners Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), edX has grown to include participation by more than 25 leading public and private universities both within the United States and abroad. The most recent additions to the edX community of educational institutions include programs in Asia, Europe and Australia. An impressive list of courses span a variety of subjects from science and technology to the humanities. Registration is free and students may opt to audit the course or work toward a certificate of mastery. According to a news story in The Chronicle of Higher Education, edX has more than 900,000 people using its platform and currently offers approximately 50 courses.
This month, Dr. Janet Walkow, clinical associate professor of pharmaceutics and executive director and chief technology office of the college's Drug Dynamics Institute (DDI), joins this elite group of educators in offering her class, "Take Your Medicine - The Impact of Drug Development” (TYM). Other instructors for the course include Dr. Alan Watts, assistant director of the DDI, and Dr. Donna Kidwell, DDI project director. In addition to the three instructors, numerous guest presenters will be featured throughout the 13-week course, including other College of Pharmacy faculty and staff members as well as some alumni. Other guest speakers for the course include leaders in the pharmacy industry and government regulators who oversee drug development.
Walkow said that the course concept has been met with widespread enthusiasm from the college community, adding that the course material could possibly be reworked and offered as an elective for UT students at some time in the future. To date, more than 19,000 students from around the world have enrolled in the course. Registration is open through October by going to https://www.edx.org/course/utaustin/ut-4-01x/take-your-medicine-impact-drug/669
According to the course plan, a new module is released each week during the duration of the course. A series of tools, videos and game-like labs help student measure their understanding of course material.
Walkow's TYM is one of the first four courses offered via edX by the UT System. Others include "Ideas of the Twentieth Century” taught by Dr. Daniel Bonevac, professor of philosophy; "Energy 101” taught by Dr. Michael Webber, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; and "Age of Globalization” taught by Dr. John Hoberman, professor of Germanic studies. Like Walkow's course, the three other UT Austin offerings are scheduled for Fall 2014. Within the first few days of the new UT Austin courses being posted in March, thousands of students around the world signed up for one or more of the offerings. Additional UT Austin courses are also planned to be available in Spring 2014.
In discussing the widespread appeal of her TYM course, Walkow explains that illness is a common denominator for everyone and medical innovations over the past 50 years have led to mitigation or cures for many diseases and conditions. These medications are often complex, she continued, and it's important to understand how they were developed, how they work in the body, and how to determine best practices to assure positive outcomes.
"Our course is designed to answer some of the basic questions that consumers should consider,” she continued.
Some of the questions addressed in the course include:
- Why does it take so long for new research innovations to turn into therapeutic medicines?
- What happens if I miss a dose of my medication?
- Who's in charge of making sure that medicines are safe?
- Should I take generics?
- What role do universities play in bringing new drug products to patients?