Combating Diabetes and Obesity By Means Of Free Online Education – University of Copenhagen

23 February 2016

Combating Diabetes and Obesity By Means Of Free Online Education

Global challenges such as diabetes and obesity, which together affect more than 500 million humans, demand global combat. 

Besides conducting cutting-edge research related to the field of diabetes and obesity, a team of talented scientists from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research - Professor, MD, DMSc, Jens Juul Holst; Associate Professor, PhD Signe Soerensen Torekov, and MD, GCRT, PhD Student Nicolai Jacob Wewer Albrechtsen - have been fighting the disease in an avant-garde and innovative way – by fostering knowledge and education through a free-of-charge, online-based course “Diabetes – a Global Challenge”

What is MOOC?
The course is encapsulated in the concept of a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) which is a powerful educational tool for institutions to teach and share their research worldwide.

Started in 2014, the course became an online global initiative which attracted massive attention from a very diverse audience. More than 60,000 participants from 150 different countries signed up for the course’s three sessions indicating that online evidence-based education is suitable not only for health care professionals but for students and patients as well.

From September 2015, it has been possible to sign up and accomplish the course on demand, with other words without any time frames or limitations, which has resulted in additional 15,000 students and positive evaluations.

Educational and professional impact of the course
Despite its fairly recent history, evidence-based MOOCs became an education tool for millions of people. However, the educational and, importantly, the professional impacts of such initiatives have not been addressed for health care professionals.

To investigate the impacts and to improve the course, the Center researchers in collaboration with Aalborg University examined whether education obtained by following a six-week online course in the prevention and treatment of diabetes and obesity had any impact on the practice and professional life of health care professionals.

The results were astounding: Over 80% of the health care professionals participated in the investigation reported significant (P<0.05) educational benefits, improved knowledge about the prevention and treatment therapies of diabetes and, importantly, improved professional life and practice. Over 40% reported that their professional network increased after course participation.
Surprisingly, study participants who did not complete all nine modules of the course reported similar impact as the ones that completed the entire course.

In other words, the course shows to be promising in providing accessible and free evidence-based research and treatment therapies to health professionals all over the world.

Keep an eye on our course in 2016
Encouraged by the multiple positive responses and requests from the participants, the course will be improved starting already from 2016. New course elements will be introduced including ‘prevention of diabetes and obesity’, ‘treatment of complications’ and ‘inflammation’ related to these diseases.

As the experience shows, adding online education to the current treatment strategies will help our battle against diabetes and diabetes-related complications. Therefore, we are looking forward to receiving more participants and encourage other institutions to launch similar initiatives to improve and ensure global, as well as local, novel and accessible education in diabetes and obesity.