Professor Sally Hardy & Professor Eddie Chaplin explore : What difference does a MOOC make when learning about Learning Disability?

At the Department for Advanced and Integrated Practice at London South Bank University, we have pioneered several ‘Massive open online courses’ (MOOCs), with the help of partners such as Health Education England, covering aspects of mental and physical wellbeing. This specific MOOC explores how to better understand and engage with people living with a learning disability (or intellectual disability, which is a more familiar term used internationally) across different health and social care settings, in order to maximise their health and wellbeing potential (Chaplin, et al 2018).

Still in its early days of delivery, we have gained significant interest from students undertaking the course across seven different countries worldwide. Early information as to how useful engaging with the MOOC has been to increase people’s knowledge and understanding of people living with learning disabilities has indicated that increased motivation to improve both attitudes and behaviours is achieved.

The MOOC introduces students to how to support people living with intellectual disabilities, whether they encounter them in their homes, in school, or in health care settings. Each week has associated learning materials that outline the different aspects of what is happening and how to better understand where and how to maximise a person’s independence and their wellbeing. For example how you might  support a family member who has an intellectual disability, or you might work in a service for people with intellectual disabilities.  On the course you will be able to  gain access to materials that will guide you through how to :

  • develop your knowledge about services people with intellectual disabilities might receive
  • gain an insight into issues related to safeguarding children and adults with intellectual disabilities
  • compare approaches to educating children with intellectual disabilities
  • identify health inequalities experienced by people with intellectual disabilities
  • consider good practice in supporting people with intellectual disabilities in hospital
  • recognise the different ways that mental illness presents in people with intellectual disabilities and how to support them
  • consider the needs of people with learning disabilities at end of life

Why is this LD MOOC important ?

There are approximately 1,118,179 adults living with a LD in the UK. Of these, 862,995 are adults of working age (Public Health England, 2017; Office for National Statistics 2017). This equates to approximately 2% of the general population. This figure is expected to increase in part due to medical advances such as neo natal care. These advances have meant that a larger number of children with highly complex needs are now surviving into adulthood.  This is reflected by increased mortality and morbidity rates for people living with a LD (Emerson, 2011). Although future population figures are difficult to quantify due to the changing demographic profile.

Although a learning disability cannot be cured, the underlying conditions can be treated and managed so that children, and adults living with a learning disability can adapt, achieve academic success, and live productive, fulfilling lives” (Altarac and Saroha, 2007). We all have a role to play in learning how to better understand what it is like to be living and trying to flourish independently, in a modern society, wherever you are in the world.

To download a full plus easy read version of the report click here

Written by Sally Hardy

Professor of Mental Health & Practice Innovation

Head of Department | Advanced and Integrated Practice | School of Health & Social Care | London South Bank University | K2 Building, 23 Keyworth Street, London, SE1 6NG

e: | twitter: @SallyHardys


Altarac, M., & Saroha, E. (2007). Lifetime prevalence of learning disability among US children. PEDIATRICS-SPRINGFIELD-, 119, S77.

Chaplin, E., et al (2018) Learning Disability today (4th edition): The essential guide to support staff, service providers, families and students. Pavillion, West Sussex.

Public Health England, (2017) Facing the Facts, Shaping the Future: A draft health and care workforce strategy for England to 2027, London, PHE

Emerson, E., & Baines, S. (2011). Health inequalities and people with learning disabilities in the UK. Tizard Learning Disability Review, 16(1), 42-48.

National Center for Health Statistics. (2017). Health, United States, 2016, With chartbook on long-term trends in health (No. 2017). Government Printing Office.

London South Bank University is a charity and a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England no. 986761. Registered office: 103 Borough Road, London SE1 0AA


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