Tulane develops new open online course on traumatology

David Gourley, Staff Reporter

Tulane is currently developing a massive online open course on trauma and how to address trauma in the real world. The course will be free and open to the public after its Oct. 6 launch.  

Charles Figley, the director of the Traumatology Institute at Tulane, said he was enthusiastic about the idea of creating an an online course on trauma when Provost Michael Bernstein first proposed the idea. 

“This course is informing students about trauma so that they may be free of trauma,” Figley said. “If we can learn about this, we will be able to understand how trauma affects human development, and possibly help to prevent violent conflict in the future.”

Figley, a Vietnam War veteran, has researched trauma and mental health for decades. His recent book, “Encyclopedia of Trauma,” offers a interdisciplinary approach to the study of trauma. His research influenced the course material.

Tim Huang, a graduate student at the School of Social Work, is working as the social media interface facilitator for the course.  

“The trauma course is a mini-survey course for 50 students to participate and learn how to be disaster-resilient based on Dr. Figley’s work,” Huang said.  

Senior James Arney is currently enrolled in the course. He said he is excited about giving feedback and helping further develop it. 

“My favorite thing about it is the fact that it is multimedia-based, using video clips, scholarly journals, newspapers and a video game teaching us about trauma,” Arney said.  

Levees.org Executive Director Sandy Rosenthal is collaborating on the project. She has devoted the past eight years of her life to create her organization to show the world that the disaster that followed Hurricane Katrina was due directly to human mistakes.  

“After the storm I saw trauma all around me,” Rosenthal said. “I was working with people who were traumatized and I myself was traumatized.” 

Her section of the course is devoted to the struggles she faced in founding her organization and how she managed to work with the media and the Army Corps of Engineers to start it.

“I did a lot of learning on the go,” Rosenthal said. “It was amazing how someone like me could emerge out of a disaster and create a powerful movement.”  

Rosenthal said that anyone who takes this course will walk away knowing that Hurricane Katrina was far from a full-fledged natural disaster, in addition to learning the role that human mistakes can play in exacerbating traumatic experiences.  

The video game portion of the course, called TraumaQuest, will also be launched in October. It takes the player through various traumatic events to help them understand the phenomenon.