Beginning last October, thousands of students from around the globe began studying at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) in a totally new way. They studied biostatistics and epidemiology, the building blocks of public health research, at home or in cafés, at any time of day or night, for a few minutes at a time or for hours at a time—as part of HSPH’s first-ever course offered through edX, the online education platform.

The course—“Health in Numbers: Quantitative Methods in Clinical and Public Health Research” (PH207x)— was taught by Marcello Pagano, professor of statistical computing, and E. Francis Cook, professor of epidemiology. Both were thrilled with the response to the course.

“We were able to keep a huge number of people interested enough in the topics to stay with us for about three months and they spent, on average, about 12 hours a week on the course,” said Pagano.

David Hunter, HSPH dean for academic affairs, said that the enthusiastic participation of HSPH in EdX was aimed both at increasing the numbers of trained public health workers around the world and at improving teaching in the School’s residential degree programs.

“Online teaching not only increases our global reach, but it provides materials and methods that we hope will make classes at HSPH more flexible and student-centered,” Hunter said. He said the next priority is to have the other elements of the core master of public health curriculum available in edX format.

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