July 22nd, 2013

Summer School Alert: Statistics in Medicine

Edit: Thanks for the tip on Harvard’s Health in Numbers MOOC, which will start again on October 15th and is also on the edX platform.

Some similarly interesting upcoming MOOCs from edX’s courses listing include The Impact of Drug Development (September 16th), Fundamentals of Clinical Trials (October 14th), and for those really long range planners Genomic Medicine Gets Personal (March 4, 2014). Keep an eye on their Medicine and Biology/Life Sciences categories which have loads of fascinating topics.

As I gave some early indicators of, my priority this summer is not blogging over here but working hard during the day and teaching the Summer of Seventh Grade (primarily pre-algebra) at night.

However, in an effort to better understand both teaching and learning math, I did something crazy last week and signed up for another free online class about it that has a local study group. It is short, nowhere near the level of coursework of previous MOOCs I’ve attempted, designed very well, despite having over 20,000 students registered has shown no signs of crashing, and uses the edX platform over at Stanford’s online courses.

I’m not sure if other medical librarians were already aware of Stanford’s HRP258 Statistics in Medicine course that launched back in June and runs through August 18th. The description is

This course aims to provide a firm grounding in the foundations of probability and statistics. Specific topics include:

1. Describing data (types of data, data visualization, descriptive statistics)
2. Statistical inference (probability, probability distributions, sampling theory, hypothesis testing, confidence intervals, pitfalls of p-values)
3. Specific statistical tests (ttest, ANOVA, linear correlation, non-parametric tests, relative risks, Chi-square test, exact tests, linear regression, logistic regression, survival analysis; how to choose the right statistical test)

The course focuses on real examples from the medical literature and popular press. Each week starts with “teasers,” such as: Should I be worried about lead in lipstick? Should I play the lottery when the jackpot reaches half-a-billion dollars? Does eating red meat increase my risk of being in a traffic accident? We will work our way back from the news coverage to the original study and then to the underlying data. In the process, students will learn how to read, interpret, and critically evaluate the statistics in medical studies.

The course also prepares students to be able to analyze their own data, guiding them on how to choose the correct statistical test and how to avoid common statistical pitfalls. Optional modules cover advanced math topics and basic data analysis in R.

I’m sorry that I missed this one! Registration is still open for the class, but it is a hardcore (8-12 hours per week estimated workload) class that doesn’t sound easy to catch up on. I’d keep an eye out for future offerings of it and related courses as thus far their instructional design and navigability is the best I’ve seen in the MOOC world and I’m learning a lot not just for my summer school teaching but also for my own online course design for effective student learning.

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