Designing an Online Public Health Course

By Jayson Miller | February 7, 2018

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The NYU College of Global Public Health (CGPH) recently collaborated with NYU educational design technologist Sharon Kay to develop a course for the CGPH’s recently launched online Master’s program in Public Health. The course, “HIV/AIDS from a Global Perspective,” was created by Associate Professor Danielle Ompad in collaboration with Kay and NYU’s Digital Studio.

A two-week version of the course had already been created for the University’s shorter January term. It was up to Ompad and Kay to design a full 12-week semester course. “Changing the course from two weeks to a full semester entailed increasing some of the content and how it was presented,” explained Ompad. “The course slides needed to be reimagined. They were interesting, but they didn’t always translate well into an online lesson. So, we had to convert the lesson into a combination of videos and images to bring out the content in a way that was engaging.”

To accomplish this, Ompad created a series of videos meant to be viewed in conjunction with text-based and other course material. He consulted with Kay, who recommended the use of the Digital Studio’s Interactive Video Module (IVM).

“We don’t want people to just use lecture capture. We try to use video in an efficient and meaningful way,” explained Kay.

Added Ompad, “I would create three-to-five slides per segment and then think about the statistics I needed to remember. I was trying to think critically about what my narrative for that three to five minutes was going to be, and in front of me there were the bullets that I needed to hit.”

Two kinds of videos were made for the course. The first were short, concept introduction videos and overview videos, some of which were made into playlists that incrementally explained new ideas and gave examples to illustrate these topics. The second type were slightly longer documentary-style videos that used storytelling to explain social history topics, among others.

“I would prepare about four hours [of content] per lesson before going into the [Digital] Studio. Towards the end, we could do a few videos in an hour, but that took some practice and doing a few takes,” said Ompad.

As Kay points out, there’s a learning curve associated with creating the videos. However, the process is not complicated, and once one gets the hang of it, work progresses quickly. “We generally shot four videos per session. There were about 45 we shot in the [Digital] Studio for this course. Once they were shot they were good to go and ready to be uploaded onto NYU Classes.”

Ompad also created videos while at NYU Abu Dhabi. “It was almost essentially the same to work in Abu Dhabi,” she said. “The technology and set-up was a bit different, but it was mostly the same as walking into the [Digital] Studio in New York and doing it. The slides get sent to the IVM in Abu Dhabi in advance so they are ready when you arrive. I have a piece of paper that has my notes on it, and then I just stand in front of the camera and talk about the content. Once a faculty member knows what they have to do, and they do it a couple of times, they’ll become a lot more efficient with their time while there.”

The Digital Studio offers training sessions for faculty who are new to the process. “They’ll sit with you multiple times, depending on how much help you need from them,” says Kay.

Ompad reflected on the process, and how it’s changed the way she approaches course development. “It’s made me a better teacher in the classroom because I had to hone my message and make it more focused, and if I was going to tell an anecdote it had to be planned. So, going through and doing these classes online and then doing them in the classroom has made it all more streamlined. I got some better images. I got some advice on how to be a better teacher, and about some of the activities we do and how we can make those more engaging.”

The Digital Studio, located in Bobst Library on Floor 5 (South), provides faculty with consultations, trainings, workshops, and resources in support of teaching and learning. For more information, see the Digital Studio website.