Virology at Coursera

3 December 2013

Virology2One of my goals as a science communicator is to be Earth’s virology professor. To do this I teach an undergraduate virology course at Columbia University and at iTunes University. This past summer I ported my undergraduate virology course to Coursera.org where I reached 26,000 students. My next virology course at Coursera, How viruses cause disease, begins on 9 January 2014.

How viruses cause disease explores the interplay between viruses and their host organisms. The course begins with an overview of how infection is established in a host, then moves to a virologist’s view of immune defenses.  Next we consider how the replication strategy and the host response determine the outcome of infection, such that some are short and others are of long duration. The mechanisms by which virus infections transform cells in culture are explored, a process that may lead to tumor formation in animals. We then move to a discussion of how viral infections are controlled by vaccines and antiviral drugs. After an introduction to viral evolution, we discuss the principles learned from zoonotic infections, emerging infections, and humankind’s experiences with epidemic and pandemic viral infections. The course ends with an exploration of unusual infectious agents such as viroids, satellites, and prions, followed by a discussion of the causative agent of the most serious current worldwide epidemic, HIV-1.

To create the Coursera courses, I divide the lecture videos from my undergraduate offering into 10-20 minute segments. I add annotations to indicate parts of the illustrations that I highlight during each lecture. Questions are also inserted in the videos to ensure that students are learning the desired principles. Weekly quizzes, a final exam, and discussion forums round out the Coursera experience.

Because others might benefit from the shorter videos, I have also made them available at YouTube. These videos are annotated, but do not have the built-in questions which are only available on Coursera. I would be pleased to learn how to add questions to YouTube videos.

  • Wayne Michael

    Thank you! I learned a lot from your virology 1 class on coursera.

  • Saumyadip Sarkar

    Same here,,,, I did it too :)

  • Martina

    Thank you for offering these virology courses. I am learning a lot

  • 僭骁 黄

    nice motorbike!

  • CourseraStudent

    You probably cannot add questions to YouTube per se, as a separate entity, but some Coursera courses do it like this: they add a question as a 5 second long still image (meaning, they show the question inside the video for 5 seconds as a part of the video). The student then has the option to hit the pause, think about the question, answer it, and then resume playback and see the answer (or, if you don’t want to tape the answer right after that, put the solution key into the video desctription).

    But wait! There is more! I just realized that YouTube allows you to add annotations – those annoying text-overs that appear at random places of the frame. This way you don’t need to edit your video, you just specify time, place, duration, and text. There will be interactivity though, as factually you’ll get a hovering question superimposed over the video for a few seconds.

    On the unrelated subject, you’ve promised us to send e-mails to all Virology I veterans about Virology II. I did not get anything.

    P.S. Please no tattoos in Virology II. Please. Pretty please.

  • http://www.virology.ws profvrr

    Thanks, I’ll look into putting questions in YouTube videos. An email to Virology I students will go out soon. And do you mean no Ashlee, or just no tattoos?

  • Mushu Hua

    Can I still take this course without taking Virology I on Coursera? I had some introductory knowledge about virology and immunology as an undergraduate. Thank you!

  • http://www.virology.ws profvrr

    You don’t have to have taken Virology I to take the second part. We’ll post some background videos from the first course in case anyone needs a refresher.

  • Rich Sportsman

    What about plant viruses or phage? May I suggest that Professor Racaniello and the Virology Team consider teaching a class just devoted to non-metazoan viruses! Not that animal viruses are not important, but that other viruses also affect our ways of life, especially with the rise of monoculture crops and drug resistant bacteria, both of which may provide huge ecological niches for viruses to develop that parasitize these human nurtured organisms.

  • Rich Sportsman

    Although you claim not to be an expert in the large viruses (on a reccent TWIV podcast from the International Symposium on Giant Virus Biology), the Pandoraviruses could also be a really cool part of a non-metazoan viriology class.

  • Rich

    BTW the international symposium of GVB was pretty awesome. What if some viruses really had cellular precursors? Another potential piece of evidence for the regressive hypothesis.

  • Celia Costa

    Thanks for this wonderful learning opportunity!

  • CourseraStudent

    Ashlee is superfine, keep her, and her tattoo is superfine, she should keep it. Both are beautiful. Please don’t shove her tattoo or other fine features down the students’ throats. I must confess I have a toilet installed at my apartment and I crap into it every day. Yet, I don’t bring that to my lectures. Lectures are lectures, everything else is everything else. For twelve weeks, every opening segment looked like a prelude to a porn movie. I was highly tempted to re-edit it and add the “bom chicka wah wah” music to remove the discrepancy between what was told and what was shown.

  • Wegan

    I couldn’t post on your article about Lyme so I’ll post it here. Does the similarity between syphilis and Lyme mean that Lyme is sexually transmittable? You seem convinced that People who don’t improve after antibiotic treatment are getting reinfected. What a coincidence that it’s the same people getting bit over and over. Aren’t you aware how special interests can muddy the “science” You might want to see the film “Under Our Skin”. In the meantime the study should give you pause:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22253822

  • Wegan

    Sorry that was meant for Jennifer Frazier, not sure how I got here.