Sharing courses not viruses - Educational Innovators Respond to COVID-19

As classrooms close due to COVID-19, how can we leverage online classes and digital libraries to fill the gap?

Author: Kate Tairyan, MD, MPH

The University of Washington’s (UW) Seattle campus is about 5 miles as the vector flies from Kirkland’s “Life Care Center,” the now ironically named the first epicenter of North America’s COVID-19 epidemic. And on March 6, after >25,000 people had signed a petition to stop in-person classes — they did.

UW is hardly alone among academic institutions both domestically and globally dealing with such concerns: according to UNESCO, an unprecedented 777+ million students in 100 countries are currently out of school because of COVID-19. UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay says: “While temporary school closures as a result of health and other crises are not new, unfortunately, the global scale and speed of the current educational disruption is unparalleled and, if prolonged, could threaten the right to education.” The news release adds: “In response, UNESCO is supporting the implementation of large-scale distance learning programs and recommending open educational applications and platforms that schools and teachers can use to reach learners remotely. The organization is sharing best practices to leverage inexpensive mobile technologies for teaching and learning purposes to mitigate educational disruption.”


“Without such online remedies, this quiet brain drain could be the greatest impact of COVID-19.”


With such large-scaled closures and implications, it is clearly time to use the excellent alternative educational tools we have at hand. With abundant data to support their quality and efficacy, the Internet Archive’s Open Library, NextGenU.org, People’s Uni, Nurses International, and others are partnering to make online courses and digital libraries freely available to universities and educators currently without them, so their students can study (and our colleges/universities can stay strong) during restrictions on gathering and travel. We're hoping that more institutions will come aboard this initiative and make one (or more) courses available so faculty without current online courses can assign such work to their students, and avoid losing valuable academic time.

Without such online remedies, this quiet brain drain could be the greatest impact of COVID-19.

Might your institution be interested in joining a collaboration of course-offering organizations to help protect our students and universities during travel bans? We're leading a ”Share a Course, Not a Virus COVID-19 Initiative”, and we would love to have your collaboration to keep students studying. Consider making one or more courses open access during travel and gathering restrictions and/or grant broader access to part/all of your digital library as part of this collaborative effort? There are proven strategies that allow many hands to help without creating additional burdens for helping institutions.

If you would like to learn more about sharing a course, contact info@nextgenu.org, and to learn more about sharing a library contact chrisfreeland@archive.org.

Here’s the growing list of courses currently on offer for this initiative.

COVID-19 Course Share - Share a Course, Not a Virus

NextGenU.org courses

  • Biostatistics
  • Epidemiology
  • Environmental Health
  • Climate Change and Health
  • War and Health
  • Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Substance Use Disorders (screening, prevention, and counseling)
  • Community-Oriented Primary Care
  • Breast Health
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Lifestyle Medicine

Peoples-uni.org courses

  • Disaster Management and Emergency Planning
  • Public Health Nutrition
  • Evaluation of Interventions
  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Health Economics
  • Health Promotion
  • Non-Communicable Diseases
  • Public Health Concepts for Policy Makers

NextGenU.org and our colleagues invite would-be learners, potential institutional collaborators, and the media to visit www.NextGenU.org or to email info@NextGenU.org for further information.

Additional resources

  • Peer-reviewed publications evaluating NextGenU.org are listed here
  • Twitter here, Facebook here

Kate Tairyan, MD, MPH

Dr. Kate Tairyan is the Director of Public Health for NextGenU.org. She received one of the 19 Canadian Rising Stars in Global Health Awards and is leading the first free online public health program in the world. You can read more about Dr. Tairyan here.