New online cancer survivorship course offers GPs a different way of learning

Amanda Lyons

28/06/2018 1:57:52 PM

Professor Jon Emery talks to newsGP about an upcoming massive open online course about cancer survivorship in primary care.

Massive open online learning courses – MOOCs – are designed to offer an interactive, dynamic and convenient way of learning.
Massive open online learning courses – MOOCs – are designed to offer an interactive, dynamic and convenient way of learning.

Cancer Survivorship for Primary Care Practitioners begins on 2 July and will be run on the Future Learn platform.
The course is RACGP-accredited and will be delivered as a massive open online learning course, or MOOC, which means it is free to access, available online and combines a variety of learning activities – both traditional and interactive.
‘It runs over a four-week period and it’s structured around a program of activities with a mix of videos, case scenarios and more traditional reading; a suite of different ways of learning,’ Professor Jon Emery, GP and Herman Professor of Primary Care Cancer Research at the University of Melbourne and Western Health, told newsGP.
‘There’s an online discussion platform as well, so you can discuss questions with other people who are on the course.’
Because the course is taken online, it can be done at whatever time and location best suits the learner, within a broad time requirement.
‘There is an option to have long-term access to the whole course so you can do it over a longer period of time if you want to,’ Professor Emery explained.
‘But the general idea, particularly in terms of the interactivity with peers doing the course at the same time, is that you commit to doing it over the four-week period, with a few hours per week.’
MOOCs, which have been around since the late 2000s, have become an increasingly popular mode of learning, and today there are MOOCs available from a wide range of education providers on an even wider range of subjects.
But, according to Professor Emery, who was a key contributor to Cancer Survivorship for Primary Care Practitioners, this MOOC is the first of its kind.
‘It was an opportunity to do something slightly different in terms of delivering educational programs, so this is the very first [MOOC] in cancer survivorship for primary care,’ he said.
The course, which will be available to learners all around the world, originated in Victoria as a collaboration between the Victorian Government, the University of Melbourne and the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre on cancer survivorship, a growing area of healthcare due to improved cancer therapies and longer lifespans.
‘Today, there are over 400,000 Australians who have had a previous cancer diagnosis and have lived more than five years after that,’ Professor Emery said. ‘Cancer survivorship is becoming another major chronic condition, really.
‘And, increasingly, GPs are going to play a role in providing some of that broad, holistic care for cancer survivors.’
Developments in cancer therapies and new models of care for survivors have meant there is a lot of new information for GPs to know. The MOOC’s content will accordingly cover a wide range of topics, from detection of cancer recurrence and reducing its risk, through to psychosocial aspects of cancer survivorship and broader issues of self-management for patients.
The course will also explore issues such as the role of allied health professionals and new models of shared care between GPs and cancer centres. It will also address specific situations, such as that of survivors of child and adolescent cancers and the types of chronic diseases of which they are at increased risk as they grow older.
Professor Emery acknowledged that covering such a vast amount of ground within the MOOC presented its challenges, but a lot of work has gone into making it helpful for GPs.
‘There’s a lot of content. You have to make it manageable, but it’s been designed by GPs, for GPs, with input from oncologists as well,’ he said.
While GPs are learning during the MOOC, its creators will also be learning in order to further improve and target its content.
‘This is our first toe in the water of running a MOOC,’ Professor Emery said. ‘We will be learning [during the MOOC] about how it goes and its acceptability for GPs. And we will be looking for feedback and potentially modifying the content [for the future].
‘That’s the nice thing about this model: it does allow you to potentially adapt and modify the content over time.’
Professor Emery is optimistic about the MOOC format and hopes it can be utilised for GP education on further topics in the future, for Australian GPs and around the world.
‘If we can show that MOOCs are an acceptable mode of delivery for GPs, then yes, there are potentially other topics we could consider, both within the cancer space but also much more broadly,’ Professor Emery said.
‘And we’re interested to see, not just how much of a reach this has for Australian GPs, but how much international uptake we get from using this MOOC-type approach.’

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Dr Avgenia Nisman   29/06/2018 11:55:09 AM

Thanks for your email
Do I need password to access the course

newsGP   29/06/2018 12:22:13 PM

Thanks for your query, Dr Nisman,
In order to access the course you can register on the website with Future Learn ( The registration process is free and requires you to create a password. You will then have access to all courses available on the platform.
Thank you.

Alaa Al-Mushatet   30/06/2018 2:04:08 AM

I will be happy to participate to your intersting course,please to advise me how,thank you

Dr Gale Bearman   30/06/2018 12:13:50 PM

Does the free on line course attract 40 CPD points or do you need to register for the paid course?

newsGP   3/07/2018 9:05:54 AM

Thanks for your query, Dr Bearman.
The course is approved for 40 Category 1 points.
There is an option to pay for indefinite access to the course, rather than having to complete it over four weeks (the free option). Both options are accredited for 40 points.
Thank you.

Dr Vivienne Ramsbottom   7/12/2018 11:03:13 PM

This is a superb course. The format, MOOC, is really easy to use. Would be interested in other learning opportunities in this format.

Dr Lesley Ramage   4/01/2019 9:31:42 AM

This appears to be a fantastic course. Does it attract points in the QI category of the CPD requirements?