Academic Exchange Quarterly Winter 2006 ISSN 1096-1453 Volume 10, Issue 4
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Teaching about HIV/AIDS through Online Education
James M. Mitchell,
Farah A. Ramirez-Marerro.
Mitchel, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Education, Hooks, Ed.D. is Professor of Education, and Ramirez-Marrero, Ph.D. is Professor of Exercise Sciences
HIV/AIDS prevention/education has been taught in classrooms for several years, yet exposure to infection remains to be a worldwide concern as behaviors have been slow to change in many cultures. It’s important to be able to reach K-12 teachers and their students on a global scale. This article addresses how one model attempts to achieve such access through implementation of a worldwide online teacher-education platform.
Although many Americans could believe that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus / Acquired
Immune-Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) crisis may be over because recent
data demonstrate that with proper intervention, a decrease in high-risk
behavior among adolescents occurs (CDC, 2000a), (Bryan, Rocheleau,
Robbins and Hutchison, 2005), it is still an ever present danger to our society
and the world at large (CDC,2000b). Dr. Peter Piot,
the Executive Director of UNAIDS, has
stated, “On current trends, AIDS will kill tens of millions of people over the
next 20 years. But this need not happen. We know prevention works.” (
…the scale of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/AIDS epidemic has exceeded all expectations…an estimated 36 million people are currently living with HIV, and some 20 million people have already died, with the worst of the epidemic centered on sub-Saharan Africa…as the spread of HIV has been greater than predicted, so too has been its impact on social capital, population structure and economic growth. Responding to AIDS on a scale commensurate with the epidemic is a global imperative, and the tools for an effective response are known.
American teenagers continue to practice unsafe behaviors
related to HIV/AIDS, specifically as related to alcohol and tobacco use, while
teenagers in other Western cultures feel that it’s a “crisis of the 1980’s”.
Likewise, educators in sub-Saharan
In Western cultures the real crisis is a crisis of arrogance that is reflected in the idea that the spread of the disease is a “past crisis” and that we can “move on”. In fact, although there has been a decrease in the practice of high-risk behaviors, many adolescents are still not getting the message. According to the Center for Disease Control (2006):
“…many students still engage in (risk)-related … behaviors…During 1991--2005, the prevalence of sexual experience decreased 13% from 54.1% to 46.8% among high school students. Logistic regression analyses indicated a significant linear decrease overall and among female, male, 9th-grade, 10th-grade, 11th-grade, 12th-grade, black, and white students. A significant quadratic trend also was detected among black students and 11th-grade students. Among black students, this trend indicated that the prevalence of sexual experience declined during 1991--2001 and then leveled off through 2005. Among 11th-grade students, the prevalence of sexual experience declined during 1991--1997 and then leveled off through 2005. Prevalence of sexual experience did not decrease significantly among Hispanic students.”
Likewise, in sub-Saharan
“Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa
have failed to bring the epidemic under control…There is a significant risk
that some countries will be locked in a vicious cycle, as the number of people
falling ill and subsequently dying from AIDS has a tremendous impact on many
parts of African society, including demographic, household, health sector,
educational, workplace and economic aspects.” (Adopt a Village in
The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) recognized this challenge at achieving competent HIV/AIDS education and the resulting social change worldwide, and partnered with the Center for Disease Control in the Build a Future without AIDS (BaFWA) project (1995-2005). The first part of the project (1995-2000) allowed AACTE and its members to explore best methods of promoting the inclusion of such prevention education into teacher preparation, identify available curriculum resources, and develop, package, and disseminate learning resources and materials to schools, colleges, and departments of education…while the second cooperative agreement (2002-2005) was designed to establish and expand the knowledge base for preventing the spread of this disease and other serous health problems by increasing the comfort, confidence, and abilities of pre-service teachers. (AACTE, 2006)
One effort designed to expand the knowledge base included establishing field sites at three universities from different parts of the country that served very different Teacher Education candidates populations: California State University East Bay (formerly Hayward), Langston University in Oklahoma, and the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus. An online learning course resulted from these on-site implementations. This newly-created course has now been accepted by one of the world’s largest online universities as part of its curiculum investigation in itsEd.D program for teacher and administrator leaders.
Online learning and HIV/AIDS Education
The Build a Future without
AIDS sites at the
In their chapter Preparing Teachers as Prevention Agents: An Online Learning Course, Mitchell, Ramirez-Marrero and Hooks (2006) recognize that learners must be presented HIV/AIDS education material in a “non-threatening atmosphere”, with an “ambiance of mutual respect” and appreciation for the learner’s previous experience with the subject matter (Mitchell, Ramirez-Marerro, and Hooks, 2006). They relied on the work of Knowles (1984) who believed in the “learner-centered instructional setting that provides opportunities for self-directed, task-oriented experiences from learners who bring experiences and motivation to the learning venue” (Knowles, 1984). As a result, Mitchell, Ramirez-Marerro, and Hooks developed an online course that focused on the biological, psychosocial and curriculum issues of HIV/AIDS education that hold true to these principles.
The first consideration of the course was to focus on a worldwide platform for disease prevention education. Although there have been some successful attempts at achieving learning about the disease via an online platform, most notably PBS and its NOVA Teachers program (2006), which offers a newspaper supplement-creation activity for students, there have been limited opportunities for teacher education students from across the world who are interested in HIV/AIDS prevention to interact in an online course. The Build a Future without Aids program wanted to offer such a platform so that teacher education candidates could cite similarities and differences in the populations they intend to work with, and potential obstacles that may exist in their different local societies.
For instance, in the pilot testing of their course, HIV/AIDS Education for Teacher Educators, Ramirez-Marerro, Mitchell, and Hooks, (2005) offered such a global platform during a four-week period in summer
2005. Students at
The co-creators also co-instructed the class in summer 2005, using curriculum
material that focused on the aforementioned biological, psychosocial and
curriculum perspectives. For the biological section, students were asked to
examine and discuss web links that articulated how people get HIV/AIDS, and the
available diagnostic tools and treatments; while for the psychosocial section,
students investigated information that dealt with the topic as a disease of
social consequence, girls and the disease as well as how household income
relates to risk and infection. The curriculum section of the course related to
specific models that had previously been implemented, most notably a model at a
high school in
Make reference to these materials as you respond to this question: It is important to convey knowledge to those whom we want to make changes. People need to know the facts about HIV/AIDS; its risks, its spread, and its prevention. The cognitive principle involves sharing new information and at times correcting misinformation. What should the cognitive information about HIV/AIDS include? Give examples of an academic subject and the information that can be shared in the curriculum regarding HIV/AIDS as related to the section being discussed. Give a 50 word reply to two classmates (Ramirez-Marerro, Mitchell, and Hooks, 2005).
As previously stated, the course lasted four weeks, one week for each section, preceded by a one-week introduction. Overall, students who participated in the course responded on their end-of-course course surveys with positive remarks. Of the eleven total respondents, 10 stated that they would take the course again and would recommend it to others. This finding brought credibility to the effort. Some of the comments ranged from “I never thought of learning in this format before, I intend to share this information with my students”, to “It was fantastic to share this learning experience with other students from across the country. I felt like they were actually in the class with me, even though they were thousands of miles away.”
Building upon Achieved Successes
The next phase of the initiative was to take the template
developed with the students from the three campuses in 2005, and find a place where
the online course could be permanently housed.
The Ed.D. Program at
to examine theories, research,
and current issues impacting today's educational system -- from the school to
the local and community levels, and review the AACTE/Build a Future without AIDS course that was developed, and assess
its potential impact on social change as related to both individuals and
schools. Students are presented instructions for accessing the course model.
After they have accessed the course model and evaluated its content, they
are required to post a response to the following questions with a
one-to-two paragraph posting: Does this course provide a model for social
change that could be applied at school sites? Could you follow this model in
creating a new model within your own leadership network? What are the strengths
of the course model? What are its weaknesses? (
Students are then asked to read a sampling of their colleagues' postings, and respond to at least two of their colleagues' postings in one or more of the following suggested ways: Ask a probing or clarifying question. Share an insight from having read the colleague's posting. Offer and support an opinion. Validate a posting with your own experience. Suggest why they might see things differently.
They are then required to review
and reflect on the
responses to their original posting, making note of what they have learned
and/or any insights they have gained as a result of the comments made by their
colleagues. They are also asked to consider how their insights/learning might
impact your future actions. (
The course sequence in the Ed.D. Program at Walden University requires that after
completing this course: Proseminar:
Teacher Leadership Beyond the School, students go on and study either quantitative or qualitative research,
so that they may formulate a hypothesis to conduct a study that will promote
positive social change as they complete the requirements of their Ed.D. programs. By placing the AACTE Build a Future without AIDS model in the third section of the
development of the online course for the Build
a Future without AIDS project has been an exercise in consensus building,
field testing and strong reflection-on-practice. The course began its formation
with three different instructors, from three different universities,
collaborating in its development with the “coaching” by staff at the American
Association of Colleges of Teacher Education. Lessons were learned during summer
2005, when students from these three universities participated in the pilot
testing of the course. The instructors reflected on practice and promoted the
(2006), Build a Future without AIDS,
a Village in
Bryan A., Rocheleau C., Robbins, R. and Hutchison K., (2005). Condom Use Among High-Risk Adolescents: Testing the Influence of Alcohol Use on the Relationship of Cognitive Correlates of Behavior. Psychological Health. March 2005. (24)(2)(133–142).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2000a). Tracking the hidden epidemic: Trends in STDs in the United States 2000. Retrieved December 17, 2006, from http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/pubs/facts/youth.htm.
for Disease Control and Prevention. (2000b). Young people at risk: HIV/AIDS
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2006). Trends in HIV-Related Risk Behavior among High School Students – United States, 1991-2005.. Retrieved December 18, 2006, from http://www.freespeechonline.org/webdocs/CDC_TeenSexReportAugust06.pdf
M.S.(1984) Introduction: The art and science of helping adults learn. In Androgogy in action. Applying modern
pronciples of adult learning.
Mitchell, J., Ramirez-Marerro, F., and Hooks, M.Y.(2006) Preparing teachers as prevention agents: An online learning course, In Humanizing Pedagogy through HIV and AIDS Prevention. Boulder-London: Paradigm Publishers
PBS (2006). NOVA online: Surviving AIDS. Retrieved December 18, 2006, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/aids/
Ramirez-Marerro, F., Mitchell, J., and Hooks, M.Y.(2005), HIV/AIDS education for teacher educators,