When the coronavirus pandemic first threatened to send SMU students home, Professor of Global Health Eric G. Bing was in the middle of teaching his annual Creating Impact in Global and Public Health course.
Bing, a physician and epidemiologist who serves as Director of the Institute for Leadership Impact and the Center for Global Health Impact at SMU, typically uses past case studies and a month-long community health project to prepare his students to become the leaders of real-world public health projects. However, when he learned about the initial coronavirus outbreak in China, Bing altered his course to include discussion assignments on how the outbreak could be stemmed. A month and a half later, the outbreak had turned into a global pandemic, and Bing’s students were scheduled to debate in class about how international organizations could scale up effective treatments for deadly global diseases in the modern era. The class meeting – which would become the last in-person meeting of the semester – included a debate conducted over videoconference software, with the judges watching and questioning the debaters from a remote location, so that the students could practice their persuasion skills in a less familiar format before the expected campus shutdown.
Now conducted online like all other SMU courses, Bing’s course has been completely restructured to help students learn about global and public health through the lens of an ongoing global health crisis. The online format has allowed Bing to add additional educational elements such as real-time discussions with experts in the medical field.
The newly-revised Creating Impact in Global and Public Health is analyzing several topics in real time, including the growth dynamics of pandemics, the importance of shelter-in-place orders, understanding public health data, and the different methods that governments and communities can use to mitigate the impact of pandemics. Through virtual discussion groups, personal reflections, and consultations with experts, Bing’s students have the opportunity to exercise their critical thinking and evaluation skills to develop new insights about the nature of global and public health. By redirecting his course to focus on an unexpected experience that affects all of his students, Bing hopes to more effectively prepare them to address global and public health problems in their lives and careers.
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