MOOC tackles tricky topics

A stock photo posed by models. iStock.

Dying2Learn is proving a popular new resource to help lift the shroud of concern and social stigma about the inevitable subject of death and dying.

Developed by a team of palliative care experts at Flinders University under the Australian Department of Health funded CareSearch program, enrolments for the latest free, five-week massive online open course (MOOC) are open for 2018.

A new article in BMC Palliative Care (Springer Nature) analyses responses from the program’s first intake in 2016, showing participants feel more comfortable talking about death and dying after completing the course.

“Dying2Learn is an innovation in online learning that shares key information on various issues about palliative care, death and dying,” says CareSearch Director Professor Jennifer Tieman, a Flinders University researcher at the College of Nursing and Public Health.

“It offers a fantastic series of conversations,” she says.

“For example, people reflected on why we use euphemisms, how we create images of death and dying in art, literature and film, whether death is being medicalised, and how social media and technology is changing our view.”

Enrolments for the course closed quickly in the first and second years, with more than 1775 already registered for this year.  Most of the 2016 and 2017 enrolments came from around Australia, but some came online in the UK, US, Canada and New Zealand.

Photo: iStock

“Our evaluation of course responses were mostly favourable, with activity engagement indicating that people were interested and connected with the content,” Professor Tieman says.

“While most participants felt relatively comfortable talking about death and dying before they started, they were more comfortable at the end of the course.

“They also reported that they would recommend the course to others.”

Australia’s ageing population and corresponding increase in chronic diseases means demand for such initiatives could keep rising.

“Being able to talk about death is important in normalising death as a part of life and being equipped to prepare for the end,” Professor Tieman says.

“This is why CareSearch is working on expanding this program and offering other information and support to health networks to make it better for all involved.”

Register your interest in this year’s Dying2Learn MOOC, to run from 28 May to 9 July, at this link or email questions and comments to

‘The contribution of MOOC to community discussions around death and dying,’ by J Tieman, L Miller-Lewis, D Rawlings, D Parker and C Sanderson in BMC Palliative Care 2018.

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