Newswise — As part of its MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) initiative, the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing is offering enrollment in two free courses, Growing Old Around the Globe and Vital Signs: Understanding What the Body is Telling Us. Taught by top Penn Nursing faculty members, these non-credit courses commence on May 19, 2014 and are open to anyone. The courses are hosted on the popular learning platform Coursera, a web portal that makes interactive online courses available to millions of people around the world, and contribute to Penn's efforts to increase access to its extraordinary educational resources.

The world is aging – people are older and societies are facing hard realities. What do we really know about aging, growing old and living in aging societies? ‘Old Globe,’ led by Penn Nursing professor Sarah Kagan, PhD, RN, and Penn lecturer and simulation learning specialist Anne Shoemaker MSN, RN, explores our aging globe with the aim of building international dialogue on innovative solutions for better life in older communities. 'Old Globers' – the teaching team and participants – examine contemporary topics in psychological and social aging, creating a dynamic discussion on the science of gerontology.

“I’ve always wanted to reach a broad audience to talk about aging societies. Coursera is a great platform for this conversation. Growing Old Around the Globe has been a wonderful experience. We are offering it for the second time and I am excited to experience the next level of conversation with participants from all around the world. Last time we offered it, people aged 11 to over 80 – from every continent except Antarctica – took the course. That was thrilling!” says Dr. Kagan. “I hope that participants take away a positive sense of aging and a belief that dialogue about our aging selves, families and communities is the way to innovate to creatively improve life in our Old Globe.”

The vital signs – heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, respiration rate and pain – communicate important information about the physiological status of the human body. ‘Vital Signs,’ led by Penn Nursing professor Connie Scanga, PhD, is designed to engage a broad audience including caregivers, those considering a career in healthcare, healthcare professionals, people interested in personal health and fitness, or anyone who simply wants to understand how the body functions.

“Having taught anatomy and physiology for more than 20 years, I am very aware that people generally have a limited knowledge about the structure of important body organs and how those organs function. Most of us are, however, aware of the vital signs -- heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate, body temperature and pain,” explains Dr. Scanga. “I'm excited to teach this course because I can explore the basic anatomy and physiology that underlies the vital signs. Not only will students gain an appreciation for some of the processes ongoing continuously in their own bodies, they'll also be able to use this knowledge to help them communicate more effectively with healthcare providers.”

Dr. Scanga provides the basic science foundation required to situate the understanding of health problems and to foster an appreciation for the complexity of the human body. This course explores the anatomy and physiology underlying the vital signs, allowing participants to develop a systematic, integrated understanding of how the body functions. Appropriate techniques for measuring vital signs will be demonstrated using on-location videos.

Enroll in Old in Vital

The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing is one of the world’s leading schools of nursing and is ranked the #1 nursing school in the United States by U.S. News & World Report. Penn Nursing is consistently among the nation’s top recipients of nursing research funding from the National Institutes of Health. Penn Nursing prepares nurse scientists and nurse leaders to meet the health needs of a global society through research, education and practice.