One 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.