COVID-19 in Perspective: JMU course covers the disease, and so much more

jmuA group of students enrolled in a special James Madison University course are learning about COVID-19 from experts in chemistry, health, history, philosophy and writing, rhetoric & technical communication.

Named “COVID-19 in Perspective,” the six-week, three-credit course is teaching the 26 students enrolled to acquire content and skills for a complex understanding of one of the largest global challenges in the past century.

More specifically, the students are learning how pandemics reshape societies, how to think about the ethical trade-offs involved in mandating mask-wearing and rationing healthcare, how to read and understand publicly-available scientific research studies of COVID-19, how to understand diverse public health approaches for dealing with the disease, and how to write and think about COVID.

As has become one of the norms during the pandemic, the lessons are provided online by the five professors teaching the course. There are also online discussions each week and the professors are available to the students through email and video office hours.

“Each of us teaches a designated weeklong module that focuses on material within our respective disciplines,” said Audrey Burnett, a professor of health sciences who is part of the teaching team and is leading a module on public health management. “We had a lot of discussion with each other about what we were thinking about and how we might teach it.”

The students are being graded with the first five weeks each worth 15 percent of the final grade and the last week worth 25 percent.

Some assignments are being graded as complete/incomplete and others are receiving letter grades, Burnett said.

“It is very encouraging to know that there is great interest in the course overall,” said Burnett, who was approached by history professor Rebecca Brannon about starting it.

The course will be offered again in the first seven-week block of the fall semester to all JMU undergraduates with a capacity of 50 students. The class is listed in MyMadison as MHUM 200E and the credits will count toward several minors and even some majors.

Teaching the course in addition to Brannon and Burnett are Pia Antolic-Piper (philosophy), Christopher Berndsen (biochemistry) and Michael J. Klein (writing, rhetoric & technical communication).


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