'What is health research?' How I helped during the development of this online course

Alan Richardson, an Alzheimer’s Society Research Network volunteer for three years, shares how his involvement in the Network has given him the opportunity to work with researchers developing an online course about health research.

I am a great believer in keeping opening doors – and this has certainly been happening for me. 

Being a Join Dementia Research Champion since 2015 and a Research Network volunteer, I was approached by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to be involved in a ‘FutureLearn’ online course, developed by a team at Leeds University.

Raising the profile of health research

The free online course aims to help patients, carers and the general public gain a greater understanding of health research and why it is so important. The team hope this will support people to feel more confident when talking with professionals about opportunities to take part in health research. 

The team building the course were very keen to have the voice and input of people affected by conditions such as dementia involved in shaping the course and co-producing it. It was also important to include personal stories such as mine. 

Part of the course is called ‘Being A Champion of Health Research’, which aims to help people to understand the different ways you can be involved in health research. This might be from taking part in a study as participant or to helping researchers to design their research projects.

Getting involved 

I had a Skype interview with the patient research team in Leeds who were developing the course in July last year. I was then interviewed by the team so I could share my experiences as a research participant and became one of the five mentors on the course.

The MOOC – Massive On-Line Open Course - is now on its third run. It is free and takes around three weeks to complete. It is available every three months and you can register for it at any time.  There is a range of videos, opportunity for questions and receiving answers – so is very interactive.

Breaking myths

Being involved in the course has been an opportunity to break myths about who can be involved in health research and enabled me to also share why dementia research is so important.

I also decided to complete the first run of the course myself and achieved a pass – I really enjoyed, too.

Join the online course

Join the free online course on 'What is Health Research?' to learn about the crucial role of volunteers in improving health care.

Visit FutureLearn
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