Irish online course helps spread awareness of Ebola

‘Alison’ 20-minute course teaches users about precautions to contain the disease

An Irish online learning community has set up a free certified course to educate people on Ebola and the precautions needed to contain the disease.

The Galway-based "Alison" group launched the Understanding the Ebola Virus e-learning course in late July 2014, following the success of its 2013 global health initiative which provides courses on malaria, hypertension and diabetes awareness.

Mike Feerick, social entrepreneur and chief executive of Alison, says he was “frustrated” with the “lack of new thinking” when it came to teaching people how to avoid contracting Ebola.

“There are new tools and methodologies that can be used to fight the onslaught of a disease like this; we need to embrace these tools,” says Mr Feerick, who founded Alison in 2007 as a site where people can learn free of charge.


Alison has four million registered users worldwide, 250,000 of whom are in west Africa.

Mr Feerick says the interactive Ebola course, which only takes 20-30 minutes to complete, was compiled using specific guidelines from the World Health Organisation and the Centre for Disease Patrol and Prevention. It was then reviewed by Irish medical doctors. The training, which is also available in French, gives information on the history of Ebola, how it spreads, what treatments are available and the best way to avoid contracting the disease.

Users can take the course in their own time and are assessed at the end. If 80 per cent of their answers are correct, they are certified by Alison.

“We’re not training the next generation of brain surgeons,” says Mr Feerick. “We’re experts in online learning. We have a role to play, not in medical diagnosis, but in communication and education.”

Orlind Cooper, an AFP video journalist in Liberia, says the Ebola course helped him avoid coming into contact with the virus while reporting from west Africa. "This course has made me brave to go to the Ebola treatment unit," he said, adding that he was able to educate colleague so as to avoid stigmatising those infected with the disease.

To register for the course visit

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast