Exploring the many faces of dementia

Ella Rhodes reports on a new online course.

A free online course to educate people about the different forms of dementia is being launched this month. Dr Tim Shakespeare (above), Alzheimer’s Research UK Research Fellow at the UCL Dementia Research Centre, has developed the course that is one of the first MOOCs (massive online open courses) to be provided by the university.

Four lesser-known forms of dementia will be discussed over the four-week course – familial Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, and posterior cortical atrophy. Each week will explore current research being carried out in the area, for example Professor Sebastian Crutch (UCL) describes in one session a study using virtual reality to detect subtle changes in social behaviour.

Shakespeare said he was motivated to create the online course, hosted on FutureLearn, after speaking to those in the support groups hosted at UCL. He told The Psychologist: ‘People in these groups often describe how they wish people in all kinds of services, and the public, had a better understanding of the symptoms and challenges that they experience; but too often people don’t recognise the younger onset and less common forms of dementia and aren’t able to understand the challenges or meet their needs.’

The course, which starts on Monday 14 March, will include video interviews, articles, discussions and multiple-choice questions. Shakespeare said the course had taken around nine months to produce after receiving funding from UCL, he said: ‘Most of the work has been in planning and carrying out interviews, which include 16 experts by experience and 15 scientists and clinicians in total. We hope the course will give an insight not just into the clinical and scientific aspects of dementia but also the personal aspects and what it means to those individuals who are affected.’

The Many Faces of Dementia course has been designed to be suitable for anyone with an interest in dementia, and it can be followed flexibly, with about two hours of learning material each week. Shakespeare said: ‘I hope the course proves to be a good way of sharing knowledge more widely – public engagement is increasingly a priority.

At their best online courses allow high-quality learning to be shared amongst a virtually unlimited number of people, and even the social aspect of learning can be maintained through use of comment boards on each step of the course.’ 

To sign up, see tinyurl.com/jh4q6sh

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