Back in early 2018, I read about a MOOC from the University of Tasmania (UTas), Understanding Dementia, in Class Central’s monthly email. I was amazed: a free online course with a 40% completion rate, from an independent provider, is big news indeed. I enrolled in the next session of the course and was so impressed, I immediately enrolled in their other offering, Preventing Dementia.
Then in 2019, the Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre collaborated with UTas’s Menzies Institute for Medical Research to create Understanding Multiple Sclerosis. Like the other UTas courses, this one was top-quality and engaging.
So, I didn’t hesitate when I read about the Wicking Centre’s latest offering: Understanding Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). My interest wasn’t purely academic. Although none of my close friends or family have suffered a severe brain injury, I do know several people who have had concussion. And yes, concussion is a traumatic brain injury.
According to the course, an estimated 69 million individuals sustain a TBI each year. This is probably an underestimate; do you know someone who has not bothered to seek medical advice for a possible concussion on the sporting field or a bump or fall at home? After taking this course, I would recommend that anyone with suspected concussion or other brain trauma seeks and follows medical advice.
While TBI can occur at any age, some age groups are higher risk than others. And you don’t need to be knocked unconscious to have a TBI.
Because males are generally more likely to take risks than females, they have higher rates of TBI, particularly in the adolescent/young adult age group.
With the main content arranged into four modules over a five-week period, the session-based course also has an introductory section and a completion module which takes care of housekeeping issues such as navigating the course and receiving your certificate. Like the other courses from UTas, it starts with an overview of brain structure and how the healthy brain works, with the help of an excellent interactive tool called Body Central.
The principal instructor, Dr Jenna Ziebell, is ably supported by a team of experts as well as a few videos recorded by people with a TBI or their family. Readings and links to sites of interest are also included.
One aspect that I missed in this course was the discussion forums. While previous UTas MOOCs encouraged participants to share their own experiences with dementia and MS, there were only three threads in this course: a general introduction thread (with over 2500 posts), technical issues, and a completion thread where learners could post final course feedback. While the introduction and final feedback threads were interesting, they did not create the same personal connection found in more regular discussions in the other courses.
I was happy to receive a free certificate of participation from Utas. If I was a health professional using the course for continuing professional development (CPD), I would gladly pay the small fee for a full certificate which includes course hours and a summary of course content.