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Reviews

Course Review: What is Genetic Counselling?

A great course to understand the emerging field of genetic counseling and its applications.

Dr Anna Middleton and Dr Jonathan Roberts, the course instructors

Note: At the time of publication, this course isn’t open for enrollment. As an alternative, you may be interested in Precision Medicine which also discusses genetic counseling and can be taken for free. Here’s a preview video.


I would like to share my experience taking a class — ‘What is Genetic Counselling?’ on FutureLearn.

Genetics has the power to transform healthcare. It is a demanding profession, that comprises skills of a variety of experts, including genetic counselors. Genetic counseling is a profession that is continuing to grow and develop globally. It is increasingly recognized as an important profession, still, it is just beginning in many developing countries.

Who is this course for?

Have you ever wondered – what is genetic counseling? How is that different from genetic testing? What are the reasons for having genetic counseling? Is this a profession right for me? As a patient, how can I be helped by receiving genetic counseling? What type of qualification is needed to become a genetic counselor? What types of patients are referred for genetic counseling by their physicians? What are the important skills and qualifications that a genetic counselor should have? What are the different types of professionals a genetic counselor will work with? What types of ethical issues need to be addressed in this profession? What is the future of the profession of genetic counseling?

If you are curious about any of the above questions and much more, I would like to recommend you to join this class and learn about this emerging profession from the experts practicing in the field.

What inspired me to take this class?

Genetic counseling and inheritance

I have several reasons that sparked my curiosity as a lifelong learner! Here are some of those:

  • In 2013, I took my first class in biology as a MOOC from MITx, called Introduction to Biology – The Secret of Life, taught by the human genome pioneer Prof. Eric Lander. That sparked my interest in biology and genetics in particular. I love to learn about genetics and how the pioneer work in sequencing the human genome has been changing the world of precision medicine and treatment of rare diseases.
  • I was first introduced to the work of genetic counseling and testing through a class from Yale University, Introduction to Breast Cancer, taught by Prof. Anees Chagpar, who is a professor of surgery at the Yale medical school. You can find my review of the course here. In this class, she introduced the role of genetic counseling and testing in the context of breast cancer-related genes and the case of Angelina Jolie. Here, I learned about various genes related to breast cancer.
  • Well, in January, I was referred to see a genetic counselor in regard to some medical condition that I am having. That gave me a first-hand experience working with a genetic counselor, who took my family history and recommended necessary tests. I learned that in order to do genetic testing in the USA, we need to see the genetic counselor first. I learned about various test results to expect and what those mean. That interaction and the curiosity to understand my actual test results sparked my curiosity to learn more about genetic counseling and genetic testing.
  • I am a lifelong learner and I like to learn from the best in the world. MOOCs are the best place to learn from! For me, the best source to learn about various topics on MOOCs is the Class Central website and their continuous updates to inform learners about the various offers from different MOOC providers. Not long ago, in a post by Class Central, I found a list of courses on FutureLearn that were available for free. It attracted my attention. I found this class in that list, and joined!

How is the class?

Here are my impressions about the class that kept me engaged:

  • Short and easy to understand explanation by professionals, who themselves are genetic counselors.
  • Very engaging discussion, integrated well with lectures and reading. Each discussion sparked interest and by reading posts, I learned a lot from a variety of global learners. Very easy interface and integration with lectures that gave me a good feel about being part of the class.
  • Short question quizzes to give a little thinking break. These were informative. They weren’t assessments but rather a way of asking a question that can help with the understanding.
  • Many short interviews with genetic counselors from other countries, giving a good idea of how this field is applied differently in different countries.
  • Many case studies were discussed. Those were my favorite part of the class! Some of those were short videos and some were articles. On videos, the genetic counselors played as patients and counselors, to demonstrate to the learners how genetic counseling works in a real life setting with actual patients.

In the final week, they discuss the very relevant topic of ethics and genetic counseling.

How is the assessment?

If you are taking this class to get a certificate, then you have to pass a cumulative assessment test at the end of the class. There are few questions, and they are very thoughtfully designed. One has to pass this assessment with a score of at least 70%. Well, with every question we get three tries. There are four scores for each question:

  • Score of 3 for getting it right on the first try.
  • Score of 2 for getting it right the second time.
  • Score of 1 for getting it right the third time!
  • No score, if we can not answer correctly in three tries.

I enjoyed this assessment quiz and am happy that I passed it with a score better than 70%! In addition to this quiz, one needs to complete 90% of lessons to complete the class and earn a digital certificate. Here is how my certificate looks!

My certificate of completion

I am very happy and satisfied with this class. I completed all the requirements, passed the assessment, and received a digital learning certificate. Now, I have good insight into the profession of genetic counseling. A brief description of this class is also printed on the certificate. For accessibility purposes, here is that text from my certificate!

This course covered: the history of genetic counselling, reasons for having genetic counselling; explored the skills, knowledge and responsibilities that genetic counsellors need; shared perspectives of international genetic counsellors; discussed ethical aspects and the future of the profession. 

Happy learning! Keep learning and never stop learning! I am also interested in learning more about similar topics and if you have taken interesting classes in similar topics, please share your recommendation in the comment below.

Sonal Patel Profile Image

Sonal Patel

My learner story on edX — hope this is sufficient to get to know me! http://blog.edx.org/spreading-love-learning-meet-sonal And you can find all my reviews here: https://www.classcentral.com/@sonal/reviews

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