Free online courses in genomics

Working with Wellcome Connecting Science to develop online courses 

Making high-quality learning accessible for everyone 

Creating online courses 

Since 2018, the Wellcome Connecting Science Courses and Conferences team have been in partnership with social learning experts, FutureLearn, to develop and present nine MOOC-style courses on genomics, bioinformatics and healthcare practice. These courses have reached over 120,000 learners in 200 countries.

We have collaborated with 30 experts in their various areas to create courses on topics ranging from antimicrobial resistance, to use of software tools for genomic analysis of bacterial genomes, to genetic counselling and genomic applications within primary care. Funding from Wellcome means that all the courses are free of charge, including premium access and a certificate of achievement.

Since this pilot has been so successful, we have incorporated online courses as a permanent feature of our programme. We are currently seeking proposals to run new online courses in 2022 and 23, on any genomics-related topic within the scope of our programme.

Working internationally 

The most recent year and a half of our pilot programme took place under the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic. In spring 2020, with most of the world under some form of lockdown, interest in online learning skyrocketed. Since then our largest courses have regularly reached audiences of 10-15,000. At the same time, we found ourselves developing our most recent set of new courses under new constraints, with everybody working from home, often trying to fit course development as well as their regular jobs around childcare or self-isolation. We had to make audio-visual materials from home using whatever smartphones or webcams team members had to hand, with excellent support from our videographer but none of his professional level equipment.

One small silver lining to this experience has been that we have become much more open to truly international developer teams. When all development takes place over Zoom calls, Slack and email, it’s just as easy to work with experts from Tunisia or Kenya as from our own campus. So as we move into the next phase we’re excited to work with the best possible teams wherever they are based.

We look forward to working with you on the next generation of innovative courses!

What you can expect 

What courses are suitable?

We ask for expressions of interest to run new courses in any relevant area of genomics. Your course might be based on an existing face-to-face course, or supplement it, or cover a completely novel topic.

How does the submission process work?

We will work with potential educators to refine initial ideas into a course proposal, which will be reviewed by our steering committee and then by FutureLearn.

What is an educator team like?

A team of about 4 main educators, including 1-2 lead educators, will be the primary team for each course. Educator teams should be gender-balanced and diverse.

How long will course development take?

Typically 4-6 months and about 50-60 hours of development work per educator, with meetings every 1-2 weeks.

What support is available from Wellcome Connecting Science?

Throughout the process from proposal to completion, you will be supported by our team of online education experts. In addition to expert guidance in education design, we will cover all the administrative aspects of the course, the project management, and the technical aspects of presenting material for the FutureLearn platform.

What is the structure of a FutureLearn course? 

Each week of the course is broken down into activities and then further into single ‘steps’, typically taking about 20 minutes to work through. Steps can be short articles, videos, or use innovative approaches such as interactive web-based exercises. Polls and carefully crafted prompts help to promote social and conversational learning, encouraging learners to reflect on and discuss each step.

What course materials are needed?

You as domain experts will provide the content. Help will be available in developing any assets needed for the course, including creation, editing and transcription of all audio-visual materials.

What is needed to complete a course?

Once the course is complete in draft form it will be reviewed by experts. FutureLearn’s process focuses particularly on accessibility so that learners from all backgrounds can learn from the course, and making sure educational best practice is followed, with a range of different learning activities available. The team’s own chosen peer reviewers will comment on the content. This process usually takes about a month.

How does a live course work?

The finished course will be released on FutureLearn. Learners from all over the world will start commenting on the steps and engaging in discussions with each other, learning from each other and providing diverse examples of practice. The beauty of the FutureLearn system is that everybody can access the course in their own time. They will meet other learners as they progress through the course together week by week, but because it is purely web-based, they can fit learning in to their own schedules and time zones.

What do educators need to do during the live course?

During this ‘live’ period, we ask educators to show a presence within the course, spending a couple of hours each week facilitating discussions. Usually very little educator input is needed, just a light touch to steer the conversations in the right direction. You’ll get a chance to meet some of our wonderful and highly enthusiastic learners, often people who wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to access high quality, expert-designed courses. You will receive guidance from our education experts to help with effective facilitation in this online environment.

What happens after the course?

We usually run our courses a few times at 6-month intervals, though there is some flexibility. Materials are made available under a Creative Commons licence, allowing learners to reuse them for their own teaching.

Submit your proposal – download the form, by clicking here.

Back to top Back to top