Geneva Health Forum Archive

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Next Generation University & Global Health for Students UK – Revolutionizing Scientific, Public and Global Health Education Worldwide

Author(s): Mustafa Abbas1, Iulia Hammond2, Kate Tairyan3, Erica Frank4
Affiliation(s): 1UCL Medical School, London, United Kingdom, 2Sheffield University, United Kingdom, 3Simon Fraser University, Canada, 4University of British Columbia, Canada
1st country of focus: N/A - this is a worldwide online education programme available to all countries equally.
Relevant to the conference theme: Research and education
Summary: Imagine if we could use the globalisation of communication and the sheer power of a world connected by the internet to deliver this training? What if we could deliver courses, teaching and training online? The projects presented here do precisely that. NextGenU.org delivers an unprecedented breakthrough in teaching in health sciences, public health, and global health, with outstanding Founding Collaborators and Funders, including the Canadian government, the U.S. CDC, NATO's Science for Peace initiative, World Bank, WHO, and the World Medical Association. Global Health For Students UK is a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional collaboration of academics, researchers and students in the UK dedicated to advancing high quality and cutting edge online global health education.
What challenges does your project address and why is it of importance?: Access to education in public and global health is a problem for every country. There is an urgent demand for large numbers of people in developing countries to be trained and educated in public and global health. Teaching and training is the basis of all health systems. We cannot advance health systems without addressing and solving the problem of education.  We identify three major barriers that severely limit our opportunity to advance education. First, education is too expensive. Books alone cost hundreds of dollars, courses cost tens of thousands and travelling internationally for years at a time for education is too great a financial burden for too many in LMICs.  Second, there is a geographical barrier. We have fountains of knowledge and plentiful universities in HICs, but transferring this knowledge internationally is a challenge we have so far not overcome. We need to avoid brain drain and greenhouse gas emissions by focusing on teaching and training that does not require international travel.  Third, there is abundant information available on the internet but no one before has identified the best of it and organized it a whole university of courses.
How have you addressed these challenges? Do you see a solution?: The two projects presented here address these challenges for students all over the world, both in LMICs and in HICs. In the first instance, it is worth considering what an ideal solution would be to overcome these challenges. What would an ideal education model look like? First, the financial, geographical and material accessibility of the system would be high. It would be financially free of cost. It would be available to anyone all over the world without the need for geographical relocation. The teaching and resources would be tailored towards the learning needs of the students. Second, the quality of the material would be excellent. The range of courses would fully cater for any need of the student. Courses would range from basic sciences in health, to public health, to global health. They would combine education with training in skills for project management, field work, and public policy.   Third, the system would be highly collaborative. The preparation of the teaching and courses would be highly multidisciplinary and highly multi-institutional, involving academics and students from multiple disciplines, universities and countries. The teaching system would be a two-way partnership between the system and the students. Responding to feedback would be a central aspect of the project and the students would be seen as more than just clients; they would be seen as dedicated future health professionals.    The learning model would build on educational best practices, including using high-quality online learning materials (e.g., text, videos, images), interactive peer activities (e.g online chat rooms, and  creating and assessing peer-generated  case studies, images, and multiple choice questions), and hands-on mentored experiences (e.g., seeing and discussing patients).  This model mirrors and expands on the traditional university experience through interacting with peers and experts in the field of study, while learning basic knowledge on one’s own via online learning materials.  Global Health For Students UK is a highly multidisciplinary and multi-institutional project. It is a collaboration between the top UK universities in global health, between academics and professors from multiple disciplines, between students across the country and around the world, and between researchers, academics, NGOs, and policy makers alike. Through engagement with a full range of disciplines it presents the field of global health in an advanced way, exploring and explaining issues of international economics, globalization, global governance, global justice, all tailored towards the need for more advanced teaching on the economic, social, political, legal and ecological foundations of global health.
How do you know whether you have made a difference?: NextGenU.org began in 2001, but the University is only now (in 2011) moving into Beta, as is Global Health for Students UK, so there are still plenty of questions about how effective teaching is or will be. There are many indications thus far of the worthiness of and need for both projects.  There has been an immense upwelling of support for both projects from innumerable actors in global health all of whom have been only too keen to be involved. NextGenU.org was founded by Erica Frank, MD, MPH, with the Canadian government, U.S. CDC, NATO's Science for Peace initiative, World Bank, WHO, and the World Medical Association are among its founding collaborators and funders. Global Health for Students UK has been strongly supported by the top universities, including University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Both projects are rapidly gaining pace and rapidly expanding. NextGenU is  formally testing our revolutionary method every place we can --our first focus groups from Latin America have called our approach “genius”, North American presenters have been told it’s “an answer to our prayers”,  and “Nobel Peace Prize worthy”, and (from the former Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control) “a visionary undertaking”.  Global Health for Students UK has been effective in joining together a full range of actors in global health in the UK. This is the first collaboration of this scale, and even the joining together of these different sectors has made a difference to each group in the approach we all take to working together. In the future, we will be measuring our success and effectiveness across several indicators. First will be the number of students signing up and where they are based – the best outcome will be a very high number of students without any geographical restrictions in where they are based. Second will be the adherence of the students to the courses – the best outcome will be students completing courses they start in an appropriate time. Third will be the change in knowledge base of the community – we fully expect these projects to have a significant effect on health education, and we will ensure our ability to measure these outcomes. Fourth will be the feedback we receive – we hope for positive feedback but strongly encourage being advised on areas we can improve.
Have you or the project mobilized others and if so, who, why and how?: Both of these projects are highly collaborative involving multiple groups as part of the team, and as external partners. Across both we take a position of leadership in setting the direction of a global system of education. A core aspect of this is mobilising groups worldwide. This is a central aim of ours in attending GHF2012 – we are consistently attempting to link worldwide with as many partners as possible. Public and global health education is not an issue just for universities, but involves the full range of actors and the full range of disciplines. In the interim between present day and Beta launch, NextGenU is working in two main areas that advance collaborations and networks. First, using best practices for teaching, including using online high-quality learning resources from organizations certified to give training and degrees (e.g. universities, professional specialty societies, government health organizations), local mentored and local and distance peer-to-peer training, and many other educational innovations. Second, partnering with existing credentialing organizations to get objective data – for example, our surgical trainees will be allowed after completing our training to take surgical boards in 9 countries through the College of Surgeons of East, Central, and Southern Africa.  Global Health for Students UK has mobilised three groups of actors in global health. First are individual actors – these are team members involved in researching and preparing the material. They are multidisciplinary and include professors, institute directors, course leaders, course tutors and lecturers, medical doctors, PhD students and MSc students. Student organisations, in particular Medsin – a national student global health campaign – are heavily involved in identifying the needs of the students and in contributing to advancing accessibility for students. Third are university institutes. We have, or will have, all the key centres of global health in the UK and have their support as institutional collaborators.  Fourth is the NGO sector – we are especially keen to realise that public health and global health is an applied and practical subject, and engaging groups who specialise in transferring evidence into policy is crucial.
When your donor funding runs out how will your idea continue to live?: There are abundant educational resources that already freely exist, so the training is not expensive to make.  The expert-derived competencies on which we base our trainings are already freely posted, as are the expert-created online resources that help address those competencies.  We identify, organize, and link the competencies and resources, and pair them with free interactive experiences that trainees do with mentors and peers.   Global Health for Students UK is an entirely voluntary project. All of our academics, tutors, students, external partners and institutes are non-funded. This is in keeping with our objective of advancing high quality public and global health education at low cost and low financial necessity. Our material will be uploaded onto the site of NextGenU.org. The NextGenU business model is five words:  grateful learners and inspired donors.  Grateful learners include the 10s of 1000s of professionals who have freely posted the resources NextGenU links to, and the course creators and staff who have created this site, either as volunteers or earning <=$25 U.S. dollars/hour.  We also expect that many of NextGenU’s graduates will donate money and/or time to create additional trainings, or to serve as mentors.   In summary, both models are initially low cost to create, thereby minimizing the financial needs of initiation. Both models are also very low cost to maintain in the future. With a steady stream of very small donations the project will be able to keep itself working. No project can exist with zero funding, but these projects are in the lowest of bands of how much financial support is needed. They work on human capacity and human knowledge more than material.

 

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