Education for Health

: 2017  |  Volume : 30  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 95--96

Massively open online courses and ophthalmology training

Kleonikos A Tsakiris 
 Department of Health Professionals, Technical Education Institute of Athens, School of Optics and Optometry, 11471 Athens, Greece

Correspondence Address:
Kleonikos A Tsakiris
Technical Education Institute of Athens, School of Optics and Optometry, 110, Ippokratous Street, 11471 Athens

How to cite this article:
Tsakiris KA. Massively open online courses and ophthalmology training.Educ Health 2017;30:95-96

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Tsakiris KA. Massively open online courses and ophthalmology training. Educ Health [serial online] 2017 [cited 2020 Apr 1 ];30:95-96
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Dear Editor,

Massively open online courses (MOOCs) are an innovation over the past few years that started when two science professors from Stanford University decided to launch online courses, free for anyone to follow, regardless of their academic or other background.[1] This spurred unprecedented growth, with the best universities across the world offering hundreds of courses in a variety of subjects, ranging from coding to philosophy, through several platforms.

Academic courses are offered through a platform, with whom the university is collaborating. Currently, the main platforms are which collaborates with 140 institutes, with 44 universities (including MIT and Harvard), and the latest, though still quite significant, FutureLearn. Com – which is a project of the Open University (UK) – is already collaborating with 42 schools. According to data provided by the websites, these courses have been followed by nearly 25 million people. The majority are owned by with 16.5 million users. follows in the second place with a little over five million students and with a little under three million. It seems clear that we are talking about a trend that is here to stay.

What is their place in medical training? This subject was first discussed in the British Medical Journal in 2013 by Harder who reported that MOOCs could be more efficient than some established forms of continued medical education - namely podcasts and grand rounds.[1] Since that report, several researchers have studied the role of these courses in medical training. A review of the Danish Medical Journal in 2014 found 165 relevant or potentially relevant classes that could be taken by doctors, urging them to consider MOOCs as an alternative.[2] Another study found 98 seminars relevant to medicine, lasting on an average of 6–8 weeks and requiring approximately 4.2 h of weekly studying.[3] Finally, the Chinese Medical Board recently decided to promote the newly established platform XuetangX. Com for the continued education of promoting nursing education.[4]

Regarding specialty medicine, Murphy and Munk advocate the use of MOOCs in radiology.[5] Using the keywords such as “ophthalmology,” “eye,” “ocular,” and “vision” in the search engine of the three aforementioned websites, one does not come across many results. Four courses, namely, “Introduction to Cataract Surgery” offered by the University of Michigan (that has a verified certificate option); “Visual Perception and the Brain” offered by Duke University in Coursera; “Light, Spike and Sight” by the MIT in EdX; and “Global Blindness” in Future Learn, by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine can be found.

Having, out of curiosity, taken such courses, it is my personal opinion that the incorporation of these new forms of distance learning can potentially improve resident and fellow training as well as revise the knowledge of experienced specialists. Even a canceled appointment can provide the time to follow a module.[1] It can homogenize training among larger and smaller hospitals and be incorporated into a national curriculum. All in all, adding MOOCs in medical training is a subject that merits consideration.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


1Harder B. Are MOOCs the future of medical education? BMJ 2013;346:f2666.
2Subhi Y, Andresen K, Rolskov Bojsen S, Mørkeberg Nilsson P, Konge L. Massive open online courses are relevant for postgraduate medical training. Dan Med J 2014;61:A4923.
3Liyanagunawardena TR, Williams SA. Massive open online courses on health and medicine: Review. J Med Internet Res 2014;16:e191.
4Anonymous. MOOCs: Transforming Health Professional Education in China. China Medical Board. Available from: [Last retrieved on 2014 Dec 14].
5Murphy K, Munk PL. Continuing medical education: MOOCs (massive open online courses) and their implications for radiology learning. Can Assoc Radiol J 2013;64:165.