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AFRO-NETS> Supercourse in 'Nature Medicine'

Supercourse in 'Nature Medicine'

Congratulations and thanks.

The Supercourse Faculty has just been published in Nature Medicine. 
Nature Medicine has been one of the, if not the most cited Scientific 
Journals. This is the second time in 2 years we have appeared in Na-
ture Medicine. When we wrote the paper we wanted to give everyone 
credit, so the authorship is the "Supercourse Faculty".

It is wonderful working with everyone. This recognition is exciting.

Ron, Akira, Deb, Benjamin, Eun Ryoung, Tom, Eugene and Beatriz

Nature Medicine
April 2000 Volume 6 Number 4 p 358 

Global cooperation in higher education: 'supercourse'

The Supercourse faculty

A clarion call was just issued by Nature Medicine for cooperation in 
global science(1). It argued that cooperation prevents duplication 
and saves precious resources. We suggest that a similar summons 
should be made for cooperation in biomedical higher education, as 
this too will help all scientists and scholars worldwide. We present 
here a model demonstrating the feasibility of such cooperation. Most 
higher education is traditional classroom instruction. This 'informa-
tion technology' was developed 2,000 years ago. Classroom teaching 
has survived through the years because it works and it is cost effec-
tive. Despite this, classroom instruction is also redundant and inef-
ficient, with considerable waste(2). For example, a lecture called 
"Introduction to Epidemiology" has probably been written 5,000 times 
by 5,000 different people. How can we eliminate the waste from the 
existing approach of lecture manufacturing, to achieve a lean produc-
tion system? This can be accomplished with faculty cooperating with 
other faculty, globally. A new approach, called the 'supercourse'(3), 
could yield better training for students by improving lectures. Its 
core is the construction of a free internet library of lectures. It 
is based on a model of sharing by software developers called open 
source, in which software is put on the internet for all to share and 
develop. Similarly, lecture manufacture can be greatly enhanced by 
having scholars put their best lectures on the internet for all to 
see and develop. It is feasible. The 'supercourse' has in its network 
more than 1,400 faculty from 104 countries who have contributed more 
than 100 lectures and 700 reviews of the lectures for free. Thus, the 
'supercourse' "teaches the teachers" in areas in which they are not 
familiar, and therefore eases lecture development. Moreover, quality 
is monitored with statistical quality control of Deming(4). By using 
low bandwidth, internet scholars in the remotest areas of developing 
countries can be reached; at the same time, the internet is very pow-
erful, as hypertext links are pathways to different sets of knowledge 
and cognition. The latest research can speed from journals into the 
classroom by direct linkage of lectures with journal articles. The 
time of preparation can be reduced by more than 80%, and students re-
ceive much better instruction. A 'shareware library' is a boon to new 
assistant professors who start out with no lectures and little time, 
experienced professors who have a few dull lectures, and teachers in 
developing countries who have little access to the biomedical litera-
ture. It is time to establish the global cooperation among faculty to 
make our instruction better and less of a burden.


1. Replacing competition with cooperation. Nature Med. 5, 1329 
(1999). MEDLINE 

2. Womack J.P. & Jones, D.T. in Lean Thinking. 9- 28 (Simon and 
Schuster, New York, 1996) 

3. Supercourse Faculty. The global health network supercourse: Epide-
miology, the internet and global health. Telemed. J. 5, 303-307 

4. Gabor A. in The Man Who Discovered Quality. 1-20 (Random House, 
New York, 1990). 

Ronald E. LaPorte, Ph.D.
Director, Disease Monitoring and Telecommunications
WHO Collaborating Center
Professor of Epidemiology
Graduate School of Public Health
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA
+1-412-383-2746 (Work Phone)
+1-724-934-9023 (Home Pphone)

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