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E-Psychology: Learn About Wearables in Mental Health Care and Other New Technologies

A free online course (MOOC) by KU Leuven explores the growing use of digital technology in mental health care and psychology. It includes modules on wearables, e-cigarettes, and e-mediation.

E-Psychology: Learn About Wearables in Mental Health Care and Other New Technologies
Picture: kalhh/pixabay

With new trends such as wearables to combat mental health disorders, the field of psychology is starting to benefit from digital technology.

Belgium´s KU Leuven is ranked as the most innovative university in Europe. It has put together an online course on the edX platform that gives an introduction to some of the most exciting electronic applications in health care.

We have interviewed the university´s MOOC team led by Filip Raes, a professor at the Centre for Psychology of Learning and Experimental Psychopathology.

"Technology Will Provide Added Value to Current Mental Health Care"

Edukatico: Dear KU Leuven MOOC team, what is the role electronic applications will play in tomorrow´s health care and psychology? 

KU Leuven MOOC team: An increasingly important role. 

Just as in any other part of our lives, digitalization and technology will play their role and provide added value above and beyond current care. This happens, for example, by increasing the amount of information people can access, by improving the quality of collected data and by optimizing time in between sessions with a mental health care professional.

Regarding e-cigarettes, for example, The Royal College of Physicians concluded in their April 2016 report that e-cigarettes are likely to be beneficial to UK public health. Smokers can therefore be reassured and encouraged to use them, and the public can be reassured that e-cigarettes are much safer than smoking. 

In certain countries, health professionals do encourage smokers to switch to e-cigarettes to quit smoking. Although this pattern is not observed in all countries yet, we believe that in tomorrow’s healthcare e-cigarettes will conquer land.

Edukatico: Is there any scientific proof of the benefits of applications such as e-cigarettes and wearables?

KU Leuven MOOC team: Yes, there is, and the MOOC is based on this scientific proof. Each topic that will be discussed is supported by scientific practices.

For example, most evidence for wearables is focused on physical activity. Psychophysiological data already has a long research tradition, but mostly in highly controlled lab studies. With the proliferation of mobile devices, we are however expecting rapid changes in this matter.

Edukatico: Your online course "Trends in e-Psychology" on the edX platform explores some of these questions. What are the main topics participants in the course will learn about?

KU Leuven MOOC team: The course has 3 modules. 

One on e-mental health, one on the e-cigarette, and one on e-mediation

The module on e-cigarettes, for example, starts by asking: What is an e-cig? How safe is vaping (and what do we mean by safety)? Does vaping help people to quit smoking? Can vaping be a gateway into tobacco smoking? How big is the possible impact of switching to e-cigs on the mortality rates due to smoking?

The course also explores e-mental health, or the use of technology in mental healthcare.

Intro to the online course

A Course For Many Different Learner Groups

Edukatico: Who would most likely benefit from your course and why? Is there a specific learner profile for the course?

KU Leuven MOOC team: Any mental health care professional or student who wishes to broaden his or her horizon and who is open to the idea of using technology. They do not need to be techies, just not technophobes…

So there is not really a specific learner profile, a lot of people should follow this course: Current, past and future smokers, health professionals such as doctors and tobacco counselors, educational personnel, policy makers, and others.

Edukatico: Will participants be able to apply some of the e-applications in their daily lives after attending the course?

KU Leuven MOOC team: Yes, for sure! 

If you look at who should follow this course, there is something in it for everyone

For example, current, past and future smokers will get information out of the e-cigarette module to alter their personal life (either to prevent them from smoking, to quit smoking and start vaping, to prevent them from relapsing or to prevent them from starting to smoke). 

Health professionals can get the most up to date information to share with their smoking patients etc. The idea is that they do obtain relevant information for their clinical practice.

Edukatico: Thank you and all the best for your MOOC!

The online course is available on edX. Learning is free in the audit track, and optional verified certificates for successful learners can be purchased for $49. They are instructor-signed and include the institution's logo to be shown on a CV or on LinkedIn.

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