New course on death, dying and palliative care

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New course on death, dying and palliative care

Anyone with a computer can enroll in the four-week course.

It’s a course that is bound to make your dinner conversation more interesting. It will take you back in history and into the future, touching on art, social media, science and language. It’s free. And you don’t have to do the homework if you don’t want to.

The first massive open online course (MOOC) on death, dying and palliative care starts at the end of this month and it is open to anyone aged 18-100 who has a computer.

The four-week course is presented by online palliative care resource CareSearch, which is aiming to increase death literacy and engage people in conversations on the topic.

CareSearch research fellow Deb Rawlings said the course was not medical or instructive. Instead, it focussed on philosophical musings, posing questions and encouraging reflections while also providing information and resources.

“You can take it at your own pace and dip in and out.”

“You can take it at your own pace and dip in and out,” said Ms Rawlings, who is also a lecturer in Palliative and Supportive Services at Flinders University.

“You can also participate in discussions as much as you like. Some people will get in there and make comments, and comment on other people’s comments. Others will just sit and read and not join in, and that’s alright as well.”

She said it was yet to be seen who would be attracted to the course, but she hoped it was adults of all ages with a range of personal and professional interests.

Ms Rawlings is presenting the first module, which will explore the language that is used when talking about death and the role and impact of euphemisms, and give insights into how funerals have changed over centuries.

Social media and the digital world will be covered in a digital dying module presented by CareSearch director Dr Jennifer Tieman.

Professor Deborah Parker, director of the Centre for Applied Nursing Research at Western Sydney University, will present a module on how death is represented in art, music and media.

Staff specialist in palliative medicine at Calvary Health Care, Dr Christine Sanderson, will explore mortality rates, the extent to which we can control and avoid death, and the extraordinary process of cryopreservation (freezing bodies in liquid nitrogen in the hope one day they might be brought to life again).

Ms Rawlings, who has worked in palliative care for 25 years, said she had noticed a significant increase in conversations about death and dying recently, particularly with the growing profile of death cafes and the Death Over Dinner project. She said the MOOC would enable CareSearch to determine whether similarly worthwhile conversations could be facilitated online.

“This is the first time we have run a MOOC and it’s the only time one on death and dying has been run for the general public. It is going to give us at CareSearch the opportunity to hear the voice of the general public. We publish hundreds of pages of information about palliative care online, but we don’t ever get to hear what people think about these issues.”

The MOOC starts on Monday 27 June. Register your interest in enrolling at