New EDC Website Deepens Understanding of Infectious Diseases

Picture of ebola virus from new EDC Exploring Infectious Diseases website

Every 12 to 18 months, an outbreak of infectious disease erupts somewhere in the world. EDC’s new, free interactive Web resource, Exploring Infectious Diseases, tackles this challenge head-on by providing engaging, scientifically accurate materials to raise awareness of infectious diseases and guide informed decision-making during outbreaks and epidemics.

Designed in response to a National Science Foundation (NSF) call for proposals to develop educational materials related to Ebola and other emerging and reemerging diseases, the four Exploring Infectious Diseases modules deepen understanding of the causes, spread, prevention, and treatment of infectious diseases. Developed by former EDC principal investigator Jackie Miller, senior research scientist Katherine Paget, and instructional designer Nevin Katz with advisors from Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory, the site is geared for high school and college biology students, their instructors, and adult learners.

“During the Ebola outbreak, misinformation flowed freely—from panicky word-of-mouth and misleading websites to ill-informed media and even our legislative leaders,” Jackie Miller noted. “By supporting new resources like ‘Exploring Infectious Diseases,’ NSF is working to give students and adult learners alike the tools and knowledge they need to identify reliable information and apply it to decide upon wise action steps amidst confusing and chaotic times.”

Katherine Paget added, “To develop the site, we drew upon an effective approach to engaging learners in rigorous science learning—using stories and providing a range of materials (videos, interactives)—that we have used in other successful instructional materials, including the Exploring Bioethics curriculum supplement we developed for National Institutes of Health.”

In addition to building knowledge of the science underlying infectious disease, modules support users in refining and applying analytic and critical thinking skills. Questions and formative assessment tasks related to each module help teachers gauge students’ learning and enable individual users to check their understanding of the material.

“It was really important to us to make this site highly accessible—easy to find, browse, and use—to a wide audience including individual students and adult learners, as well as classes led by teachers,” Nevin Katz said. “As a result, the site and all of its interactives, including the site’s Timeline of Emerging Diseases are fully responsive and enhanced for use on mobile phones.”

The new resource fills a critical gap. To date, leading biology textbooks and health courses have not provided detailed instruction related to infectious disease that is scientifically accurate, extensive enough to provide a sufficient understanding that is applicable to real-life experiences and challenges, and helps learners develop critical-thinking skills.

Last Updated: June 2016