The contribution of a MOOC to community discussions around death and dying

Publication Type:
Journal Article
BMC Palliative Care, 2018, 17 (1)
Issue Date:
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© 2018 The Author(s). Background: Advances in medicine have helped many to live longer lives and to be able to meet health challenges. However death rates are anticipated to increase given the ageing population and chronic disease progression. Being able to talk about death is seen to be important in normalising death as part of life and supporting preparedness for death. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) provide opportunities for the community to engage in collaborative learning. A 5 week MOOC was developed covering four main topics (language and humour, representations of death, medicalisation of dying, and digital dying) aiming: To enable participants to openly and supportively discuss and learn about issues around living, death and dying, To explore the normally unheard opinions and views of Australians around death and dying, and To determine what effect online learning and discussions offered through the MOOC had on participants' feelings and attitudes towards death and dying. Methods: Data was captured on engagement rates in the various MOOC activities. Death Attitudes were measured by five items representing the MOOC's learning objectives and completed at enrolment and conclusion. MOOC Satisfaction was measured with six items at the end of the MOOC. Descriptive statistics were produced for each variable and Chi-Square Tests of Independence assessed the extent of the relationship between categorical variables. Socio-demographic variables were examined as predictors of the outcome variables of MOOC engagement, MOOC satisfaction, and death attitudes. Ethical approval was received from Flinders University Social and Behavioural Research Ethics Committee (Project No. 7247). Results: One thousand one hundred fifty six people enrolled in the Dying2Learn MOOC with 895 participating in some way. Enrolees were primarily female (92.1%). Age ranged from 16 to 84 (mean = 49.5, SD = 12.3). MOOC satisfaction scores were high. Responses to the experience of participating in the MOOC were very positive, with mean scores ranging from 4.3 to 4.6 (aligning with agreement and strong agreement to statements on the value of participating). Death Attitudes were positive at commencement but increased significantly following participation. Conclusions: The Dying2Learn MOOC provided an environment that enabled open and supportive discussion around death and dying and influenced attitudinal change.
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