Cape Town - 150122 .Associate professor of Anthropology Susan Levine ( RHS) films a lecture as part of the University of Cape Town’s first massive open online course (MOOC). The free six week course that investigates how to humanise healthcare will launch on March 16 2015. ( Please refer to the videographers as the ‘MOOC production team’.) reporter: Jan Cronje. Pic : jason boud

Cape Town -

UCT will take a major virtual stride in March when it becomes the first South African institution to offer a free “massive open online course”, better known by its acronym Mooc.

The course, Medicine and the Arts: Humanising Healthcare, will, according its outline, explore the “intersection of medicine, medical anthropology and the creative arts”.

“Through each of its six weeks, we’ll visit a new aspect of human life and consider it from the perspectives of people working in health sciences, social sciences and the arts.”

The programme will be offered free to anyone in the world with an internet connection via the website, which hosts Moocs from many of the world’s leading universities.

Among the course contributors are a heart surgeon, a pathologist, an oncologist, a geneticist, a sociologist, a poet and a visual artist.

“They will pose critical questions about how we deal with health, healing and being human,” states the outline.

Sukaina Walji, the university’s Mooc project manager at the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching, said anyone connected to the internet could follow the course.

“Typically in a Mooc you watch lecture videos and demonstrations, take part in quizzes and online discussion forums,” she said.

If a student completes enough assignments and activities, he or she can chose to purchase a certificate of participation - the only part of the course that costs money.

Participants will not, however, receive accreditation from UCT.

Walji said there were many reasons someone would register for a Mooc. For some, it’s purely a question of “interest and fun”. Others may complete the course to help further their careers, while prospective students can use the course to gauge whether they should enrol full-time at a university.

Walji said free online courses offered by universities with large numbers of students were a relatively new development, dating back three to four years. The number of universities offering such courses had grown in recent years, and now included top institutions such as Yale, Harvard and Kyoto.

“It’s part of a broader movement toward the availability of learning resources online, part of a broader move towards more flexible forms of online learning,” she said.

While UCT will be first South African university to offer its own Mooc - Wits has announced it has online courses in the pipeline - Moocs have been used locally as part of lectures.

The Cape Peninsula University of Technology, for example, makes use of the journalism Moocs from the University of Texas in Austin as part of the BTech course.

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- Saturday Argus

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