Doctors, healthcare experts, students, and researchers around the globe will celebrate World Health Day (April 7) early with today's launch of NextGenU.org, the world's first free online portal, where anyone, anywhere in the world can access university- and graduate-level courses for interest or for credit through accredited institutions and organizations. NextGenU is offering three medical/public health and environmental courses, and is poised to grow full schools of public health and medicine.
"We launched our Emergency Medicine course in March 2012. Our pilot testing shows identical exam results to traditionally-trained U.S. medical students, with many students preferring our distributed teaching model," says Erica Frank, MD, MPH, Founder, President, and Executive Director of NextGenU. "We decided to launch globally around World Health Day, since our first three course offerings address health, and we already have health sciences students enrolled from 54 countries."
Dr. George Lundberg, former Editor of JAMA and of Medscape, says, "NextGenU's model presents the next great frontier for globally democratizing higher learning, a huge leap forward for education, equity, and health - this unique approach could save countless lives worldwide."
The World Health Organization states that the world needs over 4 million additional healthcare providers, particularly in developing countries. Serious global educational resource constraints and remarkable open courseware opportunities mean that heavy use of computer-assisted technology is required to train these health providers. NextGenU brings top-notch training materials to the computers of individuals, post-secondary institutions, and other organizations that may not otherwise have the resources to access or provide these trainings.
"With NextGenU, for the first time, healthcare professionals in every corner of the world will have equal access to first-class learning resources, without economics or geography providing a barrier," says Dr. Frank. "This truly democratizes advanced education by offering world-class resources to everyone, regardless of place or circumstance."
NextGenU collaborates with leading accredited universities, professional societies, and government co-sponsors, as well as funders, including Grand Challenges Canada, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization. All courses are competency-based, and include knowledge transfer through online, expert-created, and expert-certified resources, along with guided opportunities to observe and practice skills with local mentors and a web-based global peer community of practice.
NextGenU opens a new era of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs); while anyone anywhere can audit classes offered by other MOOCs for interest's sake, NextGenU is the first site committed to providing university, graduate-, and professional-level courses for credit and for free. NextGenU's uniquely-accredited MOOC model builds on the common practice in medical and public health schools of students receiving credit at their home institutions for courses and clinical clerkships taken elsewhere.
Lindsay Galway's public health students are using NextGenU's Environmental Health course this semester for their learning platform at Canada's Simon Fraser University. She reports that "with this type of expert-created, competency-based curriculum, we're able to provide the world's best resources to our students for their reading, listening, and viewing."
Dr. Carolina Segura, MD, Course Creator and Principal Researcher for NextGenU's Physical Activity and Health course pilot in Colombia, says, "Our students think NextGenU's method is genius. Many can't afford even the least expensive tuition, nor to leave their homes and jobs. NextGenU allows our scarce teachers and mentors to leave knowledge transfer to online learning, saving their time to provide the kind of skills training for the courses that can only happen in person."
It should be noted that, in addition to being free of cost and other common barriers, like geography and time scheduling, NextGenU is advertisement-free and carbon-free, using wind-powered servers and carbon offsets purchased for other organizational greenhouse gas emissions.
NextGenU currently offers courses in Emergency Medicine, Environmental Health, and Climate Change and Health, and most course materials and activities are available in 64 languages through Google Translate's integration into the Moodle platform. More than 130 additional courses, covering a broad range of topics, are currently in development, and NextGenU's educational potential is infinite.
Notes to Editor
About NextGenU's Founder
Dr. Erica Frank, Founder, President and Executive Director of NextGenU.org, is a Professor and Canada Research Chair at the University of British Columbia's School of Population and Public Health, in UBC's Faculty of Medicine. Dr. Frank received her post-graduate education at Stanford (3-year NIH/NHLBI Prevention Fellowship), Yale (Preventive Medicine Residency), and the Cleveland Clinic (Internship). NextGenU's global team began in 2001.
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