Hurricane Katrina tested the disaster resiliency of communities and institutions across the city of New Orleans. As flood waters receded the world watched residents rebuild neighborhoods one block at a time with a collective spirit that heralded a new era of rebirth. Tulane University stood at the forefront of the city’s recovery, illustrating institutional resilience at a time when extreme trauma, loss, and ambivalence reigned supreme in an area decimated by the effects of a catastrophic disaster.
The 2005 Atlantic Hurricane season challenged Tulane to step back, reflect and institute a strategic plan for growth and long-term sustainability. The insightful leadership of former Tulane President Scott Cowen placed public service at the heart of Tulane University’s mission, demonstrating the role of higher education in urban renewal. The public service graduation requirement created in the wake of Hurricane Katrina has garnered international attention and made a tremendous impact on the lives of countless New Orleanians.
It is remarkably appropriate that the subject matter of Tulane University’s first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) tackles the dynamic concepts of trauma and resilience, empowering students around the world to mitigate traumatic experience in their own lives and communities.
This course immerses students in subject material through required readings, multimedia items, roundtable topical discussions, interactive blogs, social media course portals, and challenges designed to test knowledge of case studies presented. Students will engage through a mixed platform learning environment, completing tasks and assessments within Blackboard CourseSites and the TraumaQuest gaming environment.
The Encyclopedia of Trauma (Figley, 2012), winner of the prestigious 2013 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title and RUSA Outstanding Reference Sources awards, serves as the organizational blueprint for the structure of the course’s academic content, with a development team that includes the world’s top experts in trauma and related fields.
Course lesson plans are divided into chunks of learning called “Knowledge Blocks,” or KBs, that collectively examine the broad spectrum of events that cause trauma, their consequences, and cross-cultural lessons of resilience and thriving.
A student’s knowledge of academic content is interleaved with progress in TraumaQuest, fostering a continuous cycle of learning and corresponding game unlocks that increase student retention rates through immersion in gameplay while testing the student’s ability to apply acquired knowledge during a virtual disaster event.