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Emory Coursera class on Ebola reaches more than 13,000 learners

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Course co-directors Carlos Del Rio and Dabney Evans

Recent data reveals that the Emory University-created Coursera course, "Ebola Virus Disease: An Evolving Epidemic," has reached more than 13,000 learners from 170 countries. More than a third of learners came from emerging economies.

The initial six-module online course was offered in 2015 during the ongoing Ebola virus disease (EVD) crisis. The course was co-led by Dabney P. Evans, PhD, assistant professor of global health at the Emory Rollins School of Public Health, and Carlos del Rio, MD, Hubert Professor and chair of the Hubert Department of Global Health. Evans is lead author on a paper recently published in the Annals of Epidemiology that outlines the successes of this course, as well as Emory's process of course development and dissemination.

Emory University was the first to deploy an English language massive open online course (MOOC) about Ebola virus disease. The course — aimed at both the general public and public health practitioners — features content from Emory faculty and guest lecturers from partner institutions. Among the guest lecturers included in this MOOC were many of the doctors and nurses involved in treating EVD patients at Emory University Hospital, as well as EVD patient Ian Crozier and former President Jimmy Carter.

Emory University Hospital was on the frontlines of the Ebola epidemic and received international news coverage in 2014 when it served as the first hospital in the United States to treat EVD patients. In all, the hospital treated four patients with EVD: Kent Brantly, Nancy Writebol, Ian Crozier, and Amber Vinson, and provided guidance for health providers on a global scale.

"Through this course—combining the talents and skills of faculty and staff from across Emory—we were able to guarantee that many of those in need of training and information during the Ebola crisis were able to receive it," says Evans. 

The course continues to be available for free in an on-demand format via the Coursera platform. Additionally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has funded a five-year cooperative agreement for the development of five additional courses related to humanitarian emergencies. The first of these courses, Health in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies, co-taught by Evans and Cyrus G. Shahpar, MD, adjunct professor in the Hubert Department of Global Health, has already reached 7,000 learners.

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