Well I am now on day three of my first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course).

I am enrolled on two courses:

  1. Nutrition & Physical Activity for Health (University of Philadelphia, started Mon 15 Jul); and
  2. Exercise Physiology: Understanding the Athlete Within (University of Melbourne, started Mon 22 Jul).

Both courses last for 6 weeks and involve, approximately, 3-5 hours per week of study time.

The nutrition course involves two modules per week which include:

  • Downloadable lectures (Linking Nutrition and Physical Activity to Health Outcomes and Assessing Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Body Composition);
  • Study questions (for self);
  • Integrated quizzes for each module (making 25% of the final mark);
  • Suggested further reading;
  • Self-assessment; and
  • Online discussions (with “classmates”).

Module One provides the student with the basic theory regarding the link between behaviour, diet/nutrition, physical activity, fitness, body weight and body composition, and how these link to health-related outcomes (i.e. reduction in incidence of disease, diabetes etc).

Module Two provides the student with information on the different methods of assessing:

  • Diet/nutrition (food intake monitoring);
  • Physical activity (exercise & non-exercise); and
  • Body composition (BMI & waist circumference).

As part of Module Two we must conduct these assessments on ourselves, and the initial results were interesting. I am 39yo, 5′ 7″, 85kg, with a 32″ waist. My BMI is calculated to be 29.4 and this classes me as overweight with an increased risk of developing associated diseases. However, there is a caveat that these methods may overestimate body fat in athletes and others who have a muscular build (that’s me BTW). It is interesting that I can have a 39″ waist and BMI of 24.9 and not have any apparent risk:

It is obvious from the quality of the training materials that the tutors have spent considerable time putting together the course, and I would argue that the course is of the same standard as my resident 4 year degree course.

I also remember from my degree that student engagement was never very high, however, student engagement on this course has been extremely high as demonstrated by the number of posts on the discussion forums. The backgrounds of the students is also extremely varied ranging from retired doctors to dancers wanting more information. Although American students are the largest group on the course, every continent is represented. It is estimated that over 9000 students are taking the course, although MOOC veterans suggest this is a low number due to the summer holiday period!

So far it is has been enjoyable and I am looking forward to the next 5-6 weeks.


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