The recent COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a massive increase in interest in virology and epidemiology. A wide range of online courses have become available which provide an excellent basis for continuing professional development. At one point it looked as if the courses offered through various outlets were multiplying almost as fast as the virus itself.
There are courses available from many online providers. This short article will give brief reviews of a few of these courses I have taken from two major providers – FutureLearn (www.futurelearn.com) and Coursera (www.coursera.org). In addition, I have listed some similar courses from these two providers that are listed. These lists show examples of additional courses advertised in May and November 2020. Many courses are presented several times throughout the year. With both these providers you can study most courses for free, only needing to pay if you want a certificate (or also in some cases to sit the short final exam).
- FUTURLEARN COURSES
1.1 Courses studied
1.1.1 COVID-19: Tackling the Novel Coronavirus
This course, the first I studied with FutureLearn, is designed and run by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). This provided a good general introduction to COVID-19 covering the origins, how it spreads, some of the measures that can be taken to control it and discussion of possible ways forward. Teaching was 4 hours per week for 3 weeks.
1.1.2 COVID-19: Diagnostics and Testing
This course was designed by LSHTM, the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics(FIND) and the African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM). This 3 week (3 hrs per week) course was a natural follow on from the course above. It gave a broad understanding of COVID-19 testing and diagnostics including comparing different types of test, provided an understanding of setting up COVID-19 testing including some technical and experimental considerations.
1.1.3 COVID-19: Pandemics, Modelling and Policy
This was a 2 week (2hrs per week) course from UNESCO and the Open University. This course covered extracting COVID-19 facts and statistics from raw data, examined making mathematical models, looked at some different forms of model and how they can be used to formulate policy. The wearing of masks was used of an example of applying modelling to policy. This expanded my knowledge in some of the areas covered in both that Tackling the Novel Coronavirus course (above) and the Coursera Science Matters course (below).
1.1.4 Laboratory Training for COVID-19 Molecular Testing
This was a one week (4hrs) course from FIND and ASLM which looked mainly at the logistics of setting up a laboratory to carry out COVID-19 testing including some the assessments to do, notes on training staff , sample reception and how it could possibly be integrated with other high risk testing workflows, for example HIV testing. It was an ideal follow on from the Diagnostics and Testing course
1.1.5 Vaccine Development : Finding a Vaccine for COVID-19 and Future Pandemics
This is a 3 week (2hr per week) course organised by the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (BSAC). As being an in-depth study of vaccines for the prevention of COVID-19 infections it complements the previous courses I studied. It covered the development and testing of vaccines for COVID-19, safety testing, licensing and looked at different types of vaccine. It included a number of case studies where COVID-19 is compared with other infectious disease such as the H1N1 Flu Pandemic of 2009/20010.
1.2 Examples of Additional FutureLearn Courses offered in May
1.2.1 Managing COVID-19 in General Practice
1.2.2 COVID 19: Psychological Impact, Wellbeing and Mental Health
1.2.3 COVID-19: Effective Nursing in Times of Crisis
1.2.4 COVID-19: Helping Young People Manage Low Mood and Depression
1.3 Examples of Additional FutureLearn Courses offered in November
1.3.1 COVID-19 : Psychological First Aid
1.3.2 COVID-19 : Critical Care : Understanding and Application
1.3.3 COVID-19 : Global Health Perspectives
- COURSERA COURSES
2.1 Courses Studied
2.1.1 Science Matters: Let’s Talk About COVID-19.
This was the very first course I started to study from Coursera and was run by Neil Ferguson’s team at Imperial College. A lot of the early part of the course was devoted to the epidemiology, modelling and how policy was developing towards lockdown. It was good in that it stimulated me to build a simple mathematical model of my own. There were later parts devoted to other parts of the disease such as clinical presentation and virology. When I studied this course it was very early in the pandemic and the material was reorganised as things developed, but I believe is now stable.
2.1.2 COVID-19 : A Clinical Update
This 2 week course was lead by Dr Fred Southwick of the University of Florida. It was a good general introduction to COVID-19. Topics covered included. The first week was devoted to the biology of COVID-19, what it is and how it spreads. The second week is more devoted to the clinical side of COVID-19, signs, symptoms and treatment. It was good to study this course as it gave a slightly different overview of COVID-19 from the FutureLearn course I studied. Since I studied this course I understand some of the material has been updated to reflect new scientific and clinical knowledge.
2.2 Examples of Additional Coursera Courses offered in May
2.2.1 Fighting COVID-19 with Epidemiology
2.2.2 COVID-19 : What You Need to Know
2.2.3 Mind Control: Managing Your Mental Health During COVID-19
2.2.4 COVID-19: Contact Tracing
2.2.5 Lecture Series for Preventing and Controlling COVID-19
2.3 Examples of Additional Coursera Courses offered in November
2.3.1 Managing Supply Chain Disruption During COVID-19
2.3.2 COVID-19 Data Analytics using Python
2.3.3 COVID-19 Training for Healthcare Workers
As can be seen there are a wide range of resources available to widen knowledge of this new disease. After taking a couple of courses that gave me a general background in COVID-19, I have been able select additional courses that have expanded my knowledge of specific parts of the disease. To a certain extent there are overlaps between the material offered in various courses, but sometimes it is good to get a second view of the information.
Stephen J Gamble MIScT, FIBMS
Stephen has recently retired from a major research institute in the Cambridge area as a Research Assistant working on the molecular biology of cancers and ageing. As well as being a professional biologist, he has long standing interests in astronomy, astronautics and planetary science.