Innovators in Online Learning

Exploring Infectious Diseases

Staying Current with Topics in Science

Exploring Infectious Diseases is an NSF-funded site we developed in partnership with Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) to help teachers provide students with a greater awareness of infectious diseases. The site contains four modules, each comprising digital readings and activities with a recommended flow.

In the fall of 2014, the National Science Foundation requested proposals related to the ongoing Ebola outbreak from all its directorates. The Education Development Center (EDC) was awarded a grant from the Directorate for Education and Human Resources to develop resources for high school teachers who wanted to address this epidemic with their students. The need for such materials was confirmed in a study funded by the same request for proposals to Horizon Research, which specializes in research related to science, technology, engineering and math education. Horizon’s research determined that over three-fourths of high school science teachers devoted some class time to Ebola, including 9 in 10 life science teachers. Moreover, the survey indicated that the lack of resources for teaching about Ebola was a frustrating and discouraging barrier to their development of appropriate instructional materials.

To address this problem, we developed a set of four modules that provide accessible, engaging, and scientifically accurate instructional materials and resources designed to deepen students’ understanding of infectious diseases and their spread. Although designed for high school students, they were also appropriate for the general public.

The Exploring Infectious Diseases project uses the recent Ebola and measles outbreaks as overarching stories to help students develop a more comprehensive understanding of infectious diseases, the agents that cause them, how infectious diseases are spread, and how they can be controlled and prevented using online resources for teachers.

Outbreaks and epidemics will continue to be part of the global landscape as evidenced by the recent Zika outbreak. It is of critical importance that the public has a deeper understanding of infectious diseases and how they spread in order to respond appropriately and make rational decisions. For these reasons, we elected to broaden the scope of the project by developing online resources for teachers related to emerging and reemerging diseases, using the Ebola and measles outbreaks as the overarching storyline.