‘Many Faces of Dementia’ MOOC Attracting Thousands


Timothy Shakespeare, Sebastian Crutch and Nick Fox, all researchers at University College London, have created the first massive open course on the lesser known effects of dementia.

"The Many Faces of Dementia" is focused on four of the less common effects of the disease. It airs on March 14, and it is free of charge.

Dementia is one of most significant challenges in global health in the 21st century. Dementia affects over 40 million people worldwide and has a huge impact on contemporary society, which researchers say calls for increased understanding, extensive care, and better treatments.

The course tutors include highly-regarded professionals in the field such as clinicians and scientists from the UCL Institute of Neurology and Division of Psychiatry. In addition, the participants will hear real stories from people diagnosed with dementia, and others who take care for a family member with dementia. According to Alzforum, three weeks before its official launch, more than 8,000 people, mainly in the United Kingdom, have enrolled for the course. 1,200 of them have already introduced themselves on the course's discussion forum.

The course consists of two hours of programming per week over one month. The participants will watch informative videos, read articles and discuss the content actively to understand the effects of dementia. The goal is to increase the general knowledge of dementia and to raise awareness on poorly understood conditions.

FutureLearn, a social digital learning platform owned by the Open University, will host the MOOC. For participants with a deep interest in the field, the MOOC also offers documentary video interviews, research stories, and online articles and quizzes, writes Newswise.

The social-learning component is the most distinguishing feature of the MOOC, commented Shakespeare through FutureLearn. Proper feedback, personal connection, and discussion are an integral part of the learning process, so the course has been built accordingly, and there is a comment field where participants can share their personal experiences with the rest of the group. Shakespeare said:

"This social component works best when learners take the course in real time, i.e., keep up with the weekly pace. Even so, each learner can take the course at their leisure, enabling people around the world to fit it around their schedules."

A range of participants will benefit from diverse aspects of the course. Medical care professionals – nurses, language therapists, doctors – who work closely with middle-aged and older people may improve their abilities to recognize the hidden symptoms. For instance, a better-informed ophthalmologist might refer a patient who can read the fine print but not the title to a neurologist immediately, rather than losing a year experimenting with numerous prescription glasses. Primary care and psychiatric providers can learn to recognize these rare conditions faster the next time a patient comes for a consultation.

Younger, less-experienced researchers with an interest in the field may reconsider their perceptions by seeing in person the effects of these types of diseases on the affected patients and their families. Social workers and clerk staff, for example, could better identify the reasons for dysfunction and despair that they witness.

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