Health Data Drives the Final #Newschallenge of 2013

Screenshot of a Live Event Demo in mHealth

Written by Jennifer Estevez.

Check out our entry here:

Have you heard of the #NewsChallenge? It’s a funding source for innovative ideas managed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Since 2007 the Knight Foundation has run various challenges and given away over $75 million to over 400 winners. In August the Knight Foundation launched its latest #NewsChallenge on the theme of Health asking, how can we harness data and information for the health of communities.

When the health theme was announced we immediately realized it would be the perfect time to present a new and fun idea we had been kicking around the TechChange offices for a while, a Massively Open Online Conference (MOOCon). Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which enroll thousands for a single class, are rapidly growing in popularity. Coursera, Edx and Udacity offer MOOCs from big names in education including Harvard, MIT  and most recently the Wharton School of Business. Even Google is getting in the game with However, as this Time article points out, MOOCs face a major problem; very low completion rates. While thousands sign-up, only a small fraction go onto finish, and even then it can be difficult to measure the learning impact of those who enroll.

That’s what got us thinking. If a MOOC has great engagement from the start, but limps to a finish, why not just limit the experience to those exciting first few days? In this way, a conference adaptation would have a lot of potential. The concept of the MOOCon is still in its infancy. Hewlett Packard is the founding partner of one of the first ever instances, the Global STEMx Education Conference, and it starts today (September 19th). The MOOCon idea is incredibly inclusionary because it can offer a quality learning opportunity without the high costs of travel or admission.

TechChange’s mHealth course is incredibly popular, so it became the natural topic for our MOOCon idea. The online conference would run for three days, non-stop, and be open to participation by anyone, anywhere with a connection to the world wide web. Those that join our MOOCon would participate from their computers at work or home in a highly interactive environment.  Participants would have the opportunity to hear from mHealth experts, network with other participants in forums and chat rooms, and engage in public health data simulations. We think this proposal gets to the heart of the challenge,  creating a public-facing innovation that educates and ignites conversation about how mobile phones can harness data and information for the health of our communities.

What do you think of the concept? Have any ideas for the MOOCon or want to put in your opinion? For the next three days all the #Newschallenge entries are open for feedback. Checkout out our Entry and over 600 others at:

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