Can Exposure to Online Conversations About Death and Dying Influence Death Competence? An Exploratory Study Within an Australian Massive Open Online Course

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Omega (United States), 2018
Issue Date:
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© 2018, The Author(s) 2018. A Massive Open Online Course, Dying2Learn, was designed to foster community death conversations and strengthen community awareness of palliative care and death as a normal process. This exploratory study used a pre–post prospective design to determine if participation in Dying2Learn and exposure to online conversations about death and dying resulted in any significant influence on death competence in 134 participants who completed the Coping-with-Death-Scale both at the beginning and end of the course in 2016. Death competence refers to a range of attitudes and capabilities people have for dealing with death. Results at the end of the course indicated that engagement in Dying2Learn led to significant improvements in death competence scores over time (medium-to-large effect size). The positive impact was greater for those who completed more of the course, and effectiveness did not depend on sociodemographic characteristics. In conclusion, this study found that an online learning platform in the form of a Massive Open Online Course could engage community members in meaningful social discussion about death and dying, and that exposure to these conversations was beneficial for all participants regardless of previous exposure to death. Further exploration is required to determine whether this change in death competence will have an impact on participant’s behavior in the community regarding death conversations and preparedness.
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