New ASU course distills tough health topics into digestible podcast format created, produced by students
If you’re like most 21st-century Americans, chances are you’ve crowdsourced what to do about a medical concern on social media — or worse, Googled it — and found yourself overwhelmed by the response, walking away with more questions than answers.
That’s why health communication and literacy is so important nowadays, says Mayo Clinic neurologist Joseph Sirven.
“We now have tools we never had. There’s a lot of noise coming from a lot of different areas, from social media to whatever your best friend is telling you,” he said.
The challenge is cutting through all that noise to get at the truth. That’s the goal of a new course offered at ASU co-taught by Sirven and College of Health Solutions Professors Swapna Reddy and Gregory Mayer, called “We Need to Talk — Tough Health Conversations: The Podcast Health Literacy Course.”
The course takes complex, and sometimes fraught, health topics such as research, practice and policy issues and distills them into a digestible podcast.
Students break up into three teams — background research, human voice and scriptwriting — to confront the issues, eventually rotating through each team over the course of a semester. Each team is headed by one of the three faculty, who specialize in medicine; law and health policy; and human communications and journalism.
The multidisciplinarity of the faculty, the group teaching model and the student teams are representative of a recent wave of experimentation in higher education that forgoes the traditional lecture hall method, instead treating each class of students as a cohort, and asking them to collaborate on big ideas instead of learning rote curriculum.
City University of New York English professor Cathy Davidson spoke about the phenomenon Tuesday at ASU when she delivered the 2018 Frank Rhodes Lecture on “The Creation of the Future.”
She called it a “provocative way of thinking” that has the potential to reform higher education.
The health conversations course was inspired by a series of panel discussions introduced by the College of Health Solutions last fall. Sirven said they realized they were attracting a substantial amount of students to the free public talks and wanted to find a way to engage them further, so that the subjects were not only more tangible, but also reflective of what really matters to them.