Transformative Education
for Health Professionals

Developing a MOOC for Interprofessional Education

Developing a MOOC for Interprofessional Education

Photo: Dr Maria Wamsley MD, Working together to engage in a global discussion about working together

The WHO guideline on Transforming and Scaling up Health Professionals’ Education and Training calls for new approaches that foster community engagement across educational initiatives.  But is it possible to address this directive by having an open discussion amongst health professional students worldwide about the benefits to patients and health care providers of collaboration on interprofessional teams? 

What are the common barriers to interprofessional health care (read pdf)

At the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) we’re inviting the world to join us in an online dialogue in the form of a massive open online course (or MOOC).  This course is designed to engage a global audience of health professions students in discussing the key elements of interprofessional practice while learning about, with and from one another in a virtual environment. 

What specific challenges did we face in putting together an interprofessional online course? 

It was an enormous task and we faced the usual obstacles - leadership, culture, responsibility, logistics and communications. On our campus, many endorsed the idea in concept but when it came down to getting the actual work done, a smaller, more focused group was necessary. 

Once identified, these individuals had to move quickly from working as a group to working as a team – trusting one another, holding one another accountable, planning for and managing the inevitable conflicts, and asking for help when needed.  Even with very good people on board, this wasn’t always easy.  But these challenges are reflective of the challenges interprofessional care teams face every day.

What did we learn from working collaboratively to create the course? 

  Photo; Dr Rebecca Shunk MD

The Guidelines advocate involving communities collectively for this transformational change in health professions education.  With this in mind, we tried to develop instructional materials that would be useful in a variety of learning formats and for a variety of audiences – students, postgraduate trainees, and even faculty teaching these skills to others.  For example, first year health professional students at UCSF will use the online course activities to stimulate facilitated small group discussions on our campus this year. 

We also learned that, similar to patient care, having a “care coordinator” (in this case, an instructional designer) who could help keep our message clear and consistent was very important to achieving the desired outcomes.

How can you engage with this global discussion of interprofessional practice?

UCSF will launch “Collaboration and Communication in Healthcare: Principles of Interprofessional Practice” on 15th September 2014 via the Coursera MOOC platform. The course has been designed to provide an opportunity for health professional students worldwide to:

  • Discuss some of the forces that are moving healthcare toward greater interprofessional collaboration
  • Describe the roles and scopes of practice for different healthcare professionals
  • Introduce key skills to enhance communication, collaboration and conflict management
  • Explore leadership and membership strategies that facilitate effective team functioning

The course can be completed for free but official recognition of successful completion is available for a fee. 


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Will be interesting to see how many students and from how many countries enroll and ultimately complete in this course.