Medical Neuroscience: Reaching Students of the Health Professions and Health Professionals Around the World

Medical Neuroscience is a fascinating and in-depth exploration of the brain and the structure and function of the human central nervous system. This highly successful Coursera MOOC, which launched for a second run on Jan. 6, 2014, is taught by Dr. Leonard E. White, faculty member in the Duke University School of Medicine, the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, and director of education of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences.

Medical Neuroscience covers core concepts of neurophysiology and clinical neuroanatomy, similar to content covered in most first-year neuroscience courses in Schools of Medicine. The intended audience is first year students in graduate level health professions programs. This intense 12-week course includes in-depth videos, tutorial notes, quizzes, peer assessments, and discussion, requiring approximately 16 – 20 hours of work per week.

Course enhancements for this second offering include:

  • Clinical case studies to enhance application of knowledge on functional neuroanatomy;
  • Additional videos and a discussion forum for each clinical case;
  • Participation of Community Teaching Assistants in each discussion forum;
  • Additional Google Hangouts to build online community among global learners.

According to the pre-course survey, 7% of the enrolled students already hold a medical degree and another 37% have some type of advanced degree (Master’s, Doctoral, or Professional degree other than an MD).  Of those who do not hold an advanced degree, 38% are planning to attend medical school and 36% are working towards graduate school. In addition, 75% of individuals who completed the pre-course survey indicate they have previously taken an online course. Overall, 62% of pre-course survey respondents indicate they plan to earn a certificate of accomplishment by completing all course activities.

Medical Neuroscience Gifts[1]

Dr. White shares his excitement teaching medical neuroscience: “It has been a unique opportunity and a rare privilege to interact with so many people who share my passion for the brain sciences!”

It was truly an exceptional opportunity to work with Dr. White on the launch of this very important course, as students from around the world will benefit from the opportunity to review and update their knowledge of foundational medical neuroscience.

Referring to the Duke-Coursera initiative, Dr. White comments: “I know of no other Duke initiative in 2013 that has had such a formative impact on so many people from so many nations.”


Sophia Stone, Ed.D.

Author: Sophia Stone, Ed.D.

Sophia collaborates with faculty to provide pedagogical and academic technology consulting, training, and project management, for campus-based and online initiatives. She consults on innovative teaching practices across academic disciplines, and works with faculty on course planning, course design and development, and assessment strategies. Her research interests include global online education, instructional design, faculty development, distance education, and international learners.