Online Course Supplies New Students with Foundational Knowledge

Posted on: November 29, 2018 Topics: education, PHX, student

Incoming School of Public Health students no longer have to wait until after Labor Day to begin the next chapter of their education. SPH now offers a comprehensive online course called Foundations of Public Health (PH700), designed to provide new students with foundational knowledge and an introduction to the science of the profession of public health.

The course is required for all matriculating students in the Master of Public Health, Master of Science, and Doctor of Public Health programs. It meets the new criteria on foundational knowledge set by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) for all public health schools and programs. Beginning next year, other schools and public health programs will be able to implement the modules in their own curriculums. The online course is offered on the Population Health Exchange (PHX) platform, the lifelong learning initiative of SPH.

PH700 is comprised of 16 self-paced modules, which become accessible to students once they accept their offer to matriculate. The modules are divided into three main sections: Foundations of the Profession and Science of Public Health, which focuses on topics such as the history of public health, the structure of public health, epidemiology, and qualitative and quantitative research; Biological Foundations of Public Health, which delves into specific health issues and diseases such as cancer, infectious agents, and drug resistance; and Factors Related to Human Health, which examines areas such as the determinants of health, mental health, and environmental health. There is a 10-question quiz at the end of each module, on which students must score 90 percent or above.

“This course is about teaching for mastery–it’s meant to ensure that students have mastered fundamental content,” says Wayne LaMorte, associate dean of education and professor of epidemiology, who developed the majority of the content in the course.

“Having students complete these modules makes the conversations richer in class,” says Lisa Sullivan, associate dean for education and professor of biostatistics. “In public health, we speak our own language, really–this course gives people a sense of the complexities of things they will be talking about in the classroom.”

Sullivan notes that interest in public health has increased over the past several years, and many incoming students have already had professional or academic exposure to the field. In this case, they have the option to skip modules and take each quiz immediately to demonstrate their mastery of the material.  

But even students who are already familiar with public health concepts can still benefit from reviewing the course. The material was designed to be interactive and engaging, and is presented in a variety of formats, including videos, graphs, charts, and presentations. In addition to LaMorte, a handful of other SPH faculty members contributed modules in their area of expertise.

The modules were also designed to accommodate students with hearing or visual impairments. LaMorte rebuilt many graphs and charts that had low resolution or were difficult to read, and the majority of figures and illustrations include text explanations and accompanying audio recordings to explain figures and tables. There are also transcripts of video content.

“The ability for all students to be able to have access to information is important at the School of Public Health,” LaMorte says. “We wanted to make these online resources as accessible as possible.”

Students who matriculated in fall 2018 were the first classes to complete the modules, and so far, feedback has been positive.

“This course helped me become comfortable with learning academic material again,” says first-year MPH student Tierra Holmes. “Since I took two years off after undergrad, it was a great reintroduction to school, but also good material for learning the history and foundations of public health.”

First-year MPH student Abbigayle Monssen agreed and said that the wide range of content in the modules reflected the diversity of public health.

“PH700 taught me the fundamental skills and information needed to feel prepared for my current and future SPH curriculum,” Monssen says. “This course prepared me to learn about public health challenges by introducing me to the diverse public health topics that I would be studying at SPH.”

Jillian McKoy


  1. I am an Orthodontist and work as a professor in a Dental College in India.I am very interested in pursuing a online course in Master of Public health. Request you to kindly guide as to how international students can apply for this course.Thank You

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