The Incredible Reach and Impact of a Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing Online Class

10.03x learners
June 1

The Internet has transformed our lives in many ways — from the way we work to the way we learn. Online accessibility has leveled the playing field and eliminated many barriers to traditional learning experiences, such as high-cost courses or professional development opportunities. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are an example of this technology-fueled shift in the education landscape. The Amgen Foundation believes that everyone should have access to high-quality, science learning opportunities, so as part of its mission, it funded the development of a free, online course, “Making Biologic Medicines for Patients: The Principles of Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing.”

The course, created and taught by experts in biotechnology at MIT, is offered free of cost on edX, an online platform started by MIT and Harvard. With just two six-week sessions of the course completed so far, more than 11,000 students aged 14–75 from 138 countries have already enrolled, and approximately 1,100 have completed the course. Amazing, right? It would certainly be hard to get that kind of reach in a traditional classroom setting. In fact, more students completed the course in just one online session than would complete the traditional, in-class version of the course at MIT in 21 years.

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Talking with edX staff, as well as students who have taken the course, it’s obvious that there are many reasons why students from around the world have signed up — and each person uses the curriculum in very different ways. For example, take Victor Emenike: Originally from Okposi, Nigeria, Victor is now a research associate and Ph.D. candidate at Braunschweig University of Technology in Germany and a Ph.D. student at International Max Planck Research School for Advanced Methods in Process and Systems Engineering, Magdeburg, Germany. Because he spends his days optimizing pharmaceutical production processes, the course materials related directly to his research and gave him a deeper look into the biopharmaceutical industry overall.

Having had experience with MOOCs in the past — Victor has completed 20 MOOCS — he originally thought he’d join the course, download the materials and then reference those resources as he needed them, which is how he approaches MOOCs he may not have time to complete. But once he started the course, he says he got hooked!

“The quality of the course is just unbelievable,” Victor says. “It inspired me and showed me the utility of the biopharmaceutical industry. Who knows? I might start a biopharmaceutical company in the future.”

But it’s not just students who benefit from these free, online courses. Nine percent of participants in the course are teachers. One of those educators, Douglas Bruce, is a professor at Laney College in Oakland, Calif. He found out about the course via social media and decided to enroll as a professional development opportunity while he was home with his newborn daughter.

Doug says he used to go to conferences and in-person classes for professional development, but now he has access to a wider variety of continuing education options through online opportunities like the edX course. Although he didn’t complete the full session, he did use the course materials to prep his students for a lesson about cell cultures, and he still uses the materials as a teaching resource.

The “Making Biologic Medicines for Patients: The Principles of Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing” course will be offered again this summer starting June 14. Professor Chris Love says they are currently making a few changes to make the class even more exciting. “We work really hard to truly engage with students and create a community that is excited to learn about biomanufacturing,” he says.

Interested in enrolling to learn more about biopharmaceutical manufacturing? Register here.

This story originally was posted by Amgen Foundation. The original post can be found on AmgenInspires.com.