Duke Launches New MOOC: Foundational Neuroscience for Perception and Action

Duke University is offering a Coursera MOOC, Foundational Neuroscience for Perception and Action, an exciting new course that is also a part of Duke’s online neuroscience curriculum specialization, Perception, Action and the Brain. In Foundational Neuroscience, learners will explore how the brain organizes sensory information and produces action.

Foundational Neuroscience for Perception and Action is taught by Dr. Leonard E. White, director of education for the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences and faculty member in the Duke University School of Medicine and Doctor of Physical Therapy program. Dr. White also teaches Medical Neuroscience, a highly successful Coursera MOOC, which launched for its third run on Jan. 5, 2015 to a global audience of more than 37,000 participants.

Unlike its parent course, Medical Neuroscience (the intense 12-week course which covers the core concepts of neurophysiology and clinical neuroanatomy covered in most first-year neuroscience courses in Schools of Medicine), Foundational Neuroscience for Perception and Action is a shorter course (9 weeks) and requires approximately 4-5 hours of work per week.  Course participants explore the foundational mechanisms in neuroscience without a strong emphasis on the competency of localizing lesions in the human central nervous system (which is a major focus of Medical Neuroscience).

Dr. White explains the overall goal of Foundational Neuroscience for Perception and Action:

Dr. Len White
Dr. Len White

This shorter course gives us opportunity to support our new specialization in “Perception, Action and the Brain” with foundational knowledge of brain structure and function. Students have been asking for a shorter version of the parent course, “Medical Neuroscience”, and I am thrilled to use this shorter course to help students understand the brain basis for perception and action.

Participants in Foundational Neuroscience learn through in-depth videos, tutorial notes, quizzes, a peer assessment, a robust online wiki, and course discussions via forums and twitter. The target audience is a diverse one, including advanced baccalaureate and prospective or current graduate students pursuing degrees in the brain sciences.  Participants interested in human factors in computing, virtual reality, or gaming will find this course especially valuable for developing a keener understanding of sensory perception. The course also provides an excellent opportunity for teacher professional development as a means to enhance the science education curriculum.

The MOOC online course project team included myself as project lead, and Nicholas Janes, education technology specialist and Online Course Builder with the Center for Instructional Technology (CIT). Ellen Vos, a community teaching assistant (CTA) with Medical Neuroscience, is joining Foundational Neuroscience to continue in that important role.

The project team also included Sean Burrus, doctoral student in the Department of Religion, who is serving as an online apprentice with the Center for Instructional Technology (CIT) as part of the Graduate School’s Bass Instructional Fellowship Program. Sean’s contributions were instrumental in helping Dr. White prepare his course for a successful launch. Sean’s work included revising online quizzes and exams, updating the peer assessment, editing course pages, monitoring course discussions posts, editing video files and tutorial notes, and reporting on course analytics.

Sean shares his excitement working on Foundational Neuroscience for Perception and Action:

Sean Burrus, Bass Online Apprentice
Sean Burrus, Bass Online Apprentice

“This kind of democratization of knowledge and access to scholars and scholarship is so completely new and inspiring. Being part of a team that is able to reach such a large and diverse audience is profoundly rewarding.”  

It was truly an exceptional opportunity to work with Dr. Len White and the entire course team on the launch of this new course, as participants from around the world will benefit from the opportunity to explore and update their knowledge in preparation for enrolling in the Duke Coursera Online Neuroscience Curriculum Specialization: Perception, Action, and the Brain.

Read more about Dr. Len White’s Coursera MOOCs:
Medical Neuroscience: Reaching Students of the Health Professions and Health Professionals Around the World
Duke Launches Online Neuroscience Curriculum Specialization

Sophia Stone, Ed.D.

Author: Sophia Stone, Ed.D.

Sophia collaborates with faculty to provide pedagogical and academic technology consulting, training, and project management, for campus-based and online initiatives. She consults on innovative teaching practices across academic disciplines, and works with faculty on course planning, course design and development, and assessment strategies. Her research interests include global online education, instructional design, faculty development, distance education, and international learners.