2. PH207x: Health in Numbers and PH278x: Human Health and Global Environmental Change

Health in Numbers is the online adaptation of material from the Harvard School of Public Health's classes in epidemiology and biostatistics. The course covers the principles of biostatistics and epidemiology used for public health and clinical research. These include outcomes measurement, measures of associations between outcomes and their determinants, study design options, bias and confounding, probability and diagnostic tests, confidence intervals and hypothesis testing, power and sample size determinations, life tables and survival methods, regression methods (both, linear and logistic), and sample survey techniques.

Health and Environmental Change explores global environmental changes, examining their causes as well as their health consequences, and engages students in thinking about their solutions.

The Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) is dedicated to the improvement of global health outcomes, in part through education.  Consistent with this mission, HSPH has invested heavily in bringing significant parts of its curriculum of courses online through HarvardX.  In the year ahead, HSPH aims to have courses from each of its core curriculum areas on HarvardX and available to the world.

In the 2012-2013 academic year, the first two of these courses: PH207x: Health in Numbers and PH278x: Human Health and Global Environmental Change (hereafter, “Health and Environmental Change”) were offered through HarvardX on the edX platform. This report describes the structure of these two courses, the demographic characteristics of registrants, and the activity of students. This report was prepared by researchers external to the course teams and is based on examination of the courseware, analyses of the data collected by the edX platform, and interviews and consultations with the course faculty and team members.

The report proceeds in several sections. First, we describe the goals and structure of Health in Numbers and Health and Environmental Change, in the belief that that any learning environment should be evaluated in the context of its intents, values, and vision. We then provide descriptive statistics about the students who registered for these HSPH courses and compare them to HarvardX students as a whole. With an understanding of what the course team created and the learners who took an interest in the course, we then turn to examining how participants interacted with the resources, including their patterns of assessment-taking, persistence, and overall activity. We end by examining the limits of our understanding of student learning in these courses, and describing the next steps in the development of online courses from the School of Public Health.

Our hope is that this report and its companion reports—including a multiple-course overview and other reports from the first HarvardX courses—will inspire new avenues of research and provide insights to future designers of open online courses. 

Reich, J., Nesterko, S., Seaton, D. T., Mullaney, T., Waldo, J., Chuang, I., & Ho, A.D. (2014). Health in Numbers and Human Health and Global Environmental Change: 2012-2013 Harvard School of Public Health course reports (HarvardX Working Paper Series No. 2).