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K-State Today

February 6, 2012

New Educause Quarterly article explores creation of new online global health course, game

Submitted by Rosanna Vail

Deborah Briggs, adjunct professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology in Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine and instructor of DMP 844: Global Health Issues, recently had an article featured in Educause Quarterly, the informational publication distributed by Educause, a nonprofit association dedicated to advancing higher education.

"Creating an Online Global Health Course and Game" details the efforts put forth by Briggs and her colleagues to structure Global Health Issues, an eight-week online class in a manner that both properly informs students about the major factors in global health and utilizes technology as an effective learning tool.

The successful developments of the online course and game were largely due to the efforts of K-State instructional designer Shalin Hai-Jew and K-State senior electronic media coordinator Brent Anders. The online class was also developed with the support of a program development grant from the university's Division of Continuing Education.

Teaching the course online provided Briggs and her colleagues with enhancements for instruction, including the addition of Briggs' virtual presence via slide shows featuring photos from her travels, as well as several video interviews with her and her colleagues. According to the article, these elements were included in the class curriculum to provide strengthened interactivity and to emphasize the worldwide nature of global public health.

Because the course is online, it allows for the fairly seamless introduction of material that may be affected by the fluid nature of global public health, such as outbreaks of contagious diseases. This may be achieved by the impromptu addition of informational links and interactive real-time maps, for real-time situational awareness.

Briggs, who lives in France most of the year, says she appreciates the Internet as an avenue for both teaching and learning from a distance.

"We're all so busy, and to actually come and spend eight weeks in a particular city is pretty difficult," she said. "Online and e-communications are incredible tools, and we need to really take more advantage of it."

One way in which Briggs and her colleagues have taken advantage of online resources is through the creation of an interactive online game, "Where in the World is Dr. Salus ‘Dynamica' Mundi?"

The light-hearted but engaging game, which is included as part of the Global Health Issues course but can be played by anyone regardless of enrollment, follows a reporter in search of a global health expert while players learn about global health issues.

Briggs said that imparting students with knowledge of the international landscape of health and health care is the primary purpose for the Global Health Issues course.

"People in North America look at health issues in one way. We're concerned with health insurance," Briggs said. "In developing countries, most people don't have health insurance, so the issues in the U.S. are basically totally different than they are in developing countries."

As opposed to countries with established economic stability and health care regulations, many countries in the Global South or those with tenuous economic and health prospects face obstacles to their national health that have been nearly eliminated in more affluent nations, according to Briggs.

The course description for Global Health Issues explains that though the containment of and finding cures for diseases is important, the socioeconomic factors carry equally appreciable weight.

Global Health Issues intends to introduce students to those influential elements of global health that may not affect their respective geographies but are prevalent and pressing in others, Briggs said. She believes the course will catalyze increased consideration of these elements among her students.

"Some companies are going to developing countries because it's cheaper labor, but what are they doing about work safety, and how does that impact global health on society in general@f0 I think that those issues can really be brought up in this class and people can start to think about them," Briggs said.

Briggs' and her colleagues' Education Quarterly article can be found at http://bit.ly/up2VkV.

More information about Global Health Issues and other online courses offered by the Division of Continuing Education at http://www.dce.k-state.edu/.