I am excited to be part of a project team at CareSearch that are developing a ‘massive open online course’ (MOOC) on death and dying. MOOCs are freely-available short online courses that anyone can participate in. Traditionally they have been used in universities to deliver education out of the classroom, but there has been a surge in their popularity in that they can be used to not only create social networks and engage participants, but impart important messages, provide resources, and facilitate research opportunities. The aim of our MOOC is to build community awareness of palliative care and death as a normal process, and our approach to the MOOC will be in a socio-cultural context (rather than a palliative care context); so for example, the social rather than biological death as seen in dementia. The MOOC will provide a never-before-seen opportunity to watch a community-driven approach to death and dying.
We already know that some of the issues around death and dying are starting to be discussed in public forums, including the advent of death cafes and other gatherings that have started to open the dialogue. This MOOC will potentially facilitate the development of online social networks, a means by which many people are already communicating and interacting. A MOOC can also extend the reach to those who may be unable to attend face-to-face events.
This community-driven MOOC will be based on viewing the participants as contributors, not recipients of education. It will see peer-to-peer social activism, the building of social capital, and exploration of concepts that have impacted on the public. For participants there is an opportunity to engage and discuss death, to do something meaningful to them, and to generate new knowledge. For the project team there is the opportunity to identify influences on people’s perceptions, hear the ‘voice that doesn’t sound’, and to develop new understanding of systems, communities and issues. For CareSearch there is the opportunity to look at ways to talk and write on the website, and explore whether this allows us to create a genuine dialogue.
The MOOC will be delivered over a four week period from the end of June 2016 and will include modules with concepts such as media representations of death and dying, digital dying, socio/biological dying, and how society should engage with death and dying. We would like to encourage people of all ages and from all walks of life to get involved with the MOOC and share their thoughts and views. We are also interested in hearing of any relevant resources or information that would be of interest to the public that we can share - please feel free to leave your ideas and comments below.
For more information about strengthening community action and creating supportive (social) environments, visit our Nurses Hub page on Public Health Palliative Care.
Deb Rawlings is a Research Fellow (CareSearch) at Flinders University, South Australia.
Editor's note: The MOOC will be released at the end of June 2016. Register your interest today!