Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have revolutionized how individuals worldwide can learn about a myriad of topics.  But what about a MOOC that actually focuses on the topic of teaching and learning?

St. Michael’s Hospital and the Centre for Faculty Development is offering a series of massive open online courses focused on Health Professional Teaching Skills made available on the edX platform. To date they have launched three in what will become a series of six courses. Each course allows a learner to join at any time and work through material at their own pace. A participant can view the material for free or choose to pursue a verified certificate of completion for a small fee.

What makes this series of MOOCs unique is the focus on providing faculty development opportunities to a very large audience. Faculty development is a broad range of activities that institutions use to renew or assist faculty, supervisors, preceptors, field instructors, clinical educators, and status appointees in their roles. The activities provided in these MOOCs are designed to improve a health care professional’s knowledge and skills in teaching, education, administration, leadership and research.

We had a chance to speak with Karen Leslie, co-creator/instructor about this innovative faculty development project and asked her about the experience leveraging the MOOC space.

Q: Why did you decide on creating a series of MOOCs – with all material open to the world – to support faculty development?

Karen Leslie: We wanted to create faculty development resources that could be widely accessible to health professional teachers and also to provide the ability for those who were interested in obtaining a certificate of completion.  We saw a MOOC as a one component of a variety of levels of intensity and involvement in faculty development that we add to what we already offer and that could be layered into/built on in various ways.  So really it was all about seeing the MOOC as one additional way that faculty development could be offered.

Q: With worldwide access, who is the target audience for these courses?

Karen Leslie: I would say several audiences with some that overlap:

1)    Health care professionals who do not have access to faculty development either because of their location or the fact that their institution doesn’t offer programming.
2)    Health care professionals who may not feel they have the time to spend on faculty development and/or are not sure how faculty development might be useful to them. In this way we can provide a ‘taste’ of faculty development.
3)    Faculty developers who might want to see how the MOOC might be used as pre-work for other faculty development programming.

Q: What was the experience like creating/curating content for the target audience and on this platform? What were some challenges and design considerations?

Karen Leslie: As we had already developed some of the content for another online resource that was developed with ITIF funding, we built on top of this.

We needed to add the assessment pieces and this was a bit of a challenge due to the experiential aspect of teaching skills. For example, how to ask questions that had clear answers but were not necessarily all ‘content’/knowledge’ focused.
Also, knowing this was going out to a much broader world of health care professionals, being mindful of some of the cultural aspects such as wording, trying not to use abbreviations, colloquial terms, etc.  And having a more critical eye on pedagogical approach and quality of the references as the MOOC is our Centre for Faculty Development but also the U of T brand.

Q: What does leading this set of courses out on a MOOC platform/MOOC context afford participants that wouldn’t be realized in another context?

Karen Leslie: Accessibility is the biggest one; also I think to identify with other health care professional teachers for those who are more isolated in their practice context and be part of a virtual community of practice. I’d like to see how we might further foster this community of practice.

To date the courses have attracted over 5500 participants from 152 countries. The full series will be complete by April of 2017.

By Will Heikoop, Online Learning Coordinator, CTSI/ACT

Photo: Ana Munoz,