Free U-M online course aids understanding of health care reform


Answering questions raised by the latest reform to the U.S. health care system — the Affordable Care Act — is the goal of a new free University of Michigan online course.

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Dr. Matthew Davis, professor of medicine and public policy, with backing from the Medical School, has launched the course titled “Understanding and Improving the U.S. Healthcare System” on Coursera. Participants still may enroll in the current course, and there are plans to repeat it in winter 2014.

Coursera is a massive open online curriculum, or MOOC, that U-M helped launch last year. It provides free courses on a wide variety of subjects for learners from any background. 

“We are in an era when health policy and health care reform is front and center, not only in doctors offices but on street corners,” Davis said.

After studying national data on fourth-year medical students across the country, Davis found that their confidence about health policy issues was far below their confidence about clinical learning and clinical skills.

“For physicians to be functioning at their best, they need to know how the health care system is supposed to work,” Davis said. “In this course, students will learn a lot about the Affordable Care Act and how it builds on 50 years of history.”

Dr. Matthew Davis discusses what people can learn about the U.S. health care system in the new U-M online course, Understanding and Improving the U.S. Healthcare System.”

Davis said he wants to engage the learners to think about how they can play a role in improving the system at the personal level — as patients, health care providers or in other capacities.

He’s expecting enrollment to exceed 15,000 people for the six-week course.

The average class size for U-M Coursera courses is nearly 50,000, said Gautam Kaul, a finance professor at the Ross School of Business who teaches the popular Introduction to Finance course on Coursera. Kaul also serves as special counsel for Digital Education Initiatives at U-M.

U-M offers courses on topics ranging from science fiction to Internet security.

The health system-focused course, produced by U-M grad Michael Rubyan, takes a fresh approach each week including week five, which includes live interaction online between students and instructors. Rubyan, a documentary film producer, earned his master’s in public health from U-M in 2012.

The course’s six episodes use documentary film techniques including filming on location capturing the university’s most beautiful spaces and resources, one-on-one interviews and a talk-show-format discussion. The course also includes a 45-minute documentary segment that integrates archival footage of 11 U.S. presidents detailing their health care reform efforts over the past 65 years.

Davis also has tapped the expertise of several colleagues across the U-M campus from the medical and health policy fields for interviews.

The course is one of six being developed by the Medical School, said Timothy O’Brien, who oversees online course development.

“It is still part of an exploratory phase for us. This is a new frontier and we are utilizing Coursera to try to determine what makes sense for us in education,” O’Brien said. “We are keen to apply what we learn about how students learn online to our on-campus efforts.”



  1. Eleanor Feldbaum
    on January 21, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    This portion on the players seems extremely elementary

  2. Eleanor Feldbaum
    on January 21, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    This portion on the players seems extremely elementary

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