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Free online course: “Understanding clinical research: behind the statistics”


The University of Cape Town are running a free online course (via Coursera) on the statistical concepts encountered in clinical research. Understanding the statistical approaches used by scientists to analyse their data is key to determining the validity of the results.

The 6-week course (2–3 hours per week) promises an ‘easy entry’ into interpreting common statistical approaches. It will introduce the types of clinical studies and the variety of data that may be obtained from them. Hypothesis testing, confidence levels, parametric and non-parametric testing, how to compare categorical data, and how to analyse the accuracy of results will also be covered.


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One thought on “Free online course: “Understanding clinical research: behind the statistics” Leave a comment

  1. Dear Ryan, Rick and the Aspire team,
    Thank you for bring to mind this useful Coursera MOOC on understanding the statistics in clinical research. The course is composed of a series of video lectures by Dr Juan Klopper, Head of Acute Care Surgery, Groote Schuur Hospital at University of Cape Town. These can be worked on at your own pace during the 6-week course. As described by Dr Klopper, the course ‘offers an easy entry into interpreting common statistical concepts without getting into nitty-gritty mathematical formulae.’

    Plus points of the course include:
    • Comfortable completion in 2-3 hours study per week, for 6 weeks.
    • The content is well presented as video lectures by Dr Juan Klopper, who has a clear and enthusiastic manner. Information is also displayed on the screen, for example, ‘types of research, observational studies and experimental studies.’
    • Two video lectures are provided by Mary Shelton, the librarian at the University of Cape Town, Health Sciences Library. These provide useful information on literature searches. How to improve the relevance of journal searches through refining/narrowing search parameters in medical journal search engines such as PubMed.
    • Notes do not need to be taken, as they are provided between lectures. There is also the option of downloading notes for the entire course. I founded it useful to print these out and refer to them from the start of the course.
    • The information is reinforced by 4 graded quizzes and 2 peer-graded assignments. There is opportunity to take these assessments again if you are initially unsuccessful.
    • A certificate can be purchased for £20 to display on resumes and Linkedin profiles to show that the course has been completed successfully.

    In conclusion, this is a useful entry-level course to increase the understanding of statistics in research articles. The video lectures are interesting and the knowledge is reinforced with quizzes. The complete course notes can be printed and provide useful reference during and after the course. Statistical theory is backed up by real-world examples from open access journals, to be read at your convenience.

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