• University of Leeds
  • NHS National Institute for Health Research logo

COVID-19: Understanding the Research Behind the Pandemic

Discover how scientists responded to the pandemic and how they conduct innovative research to develop treatments and vaccines.

2,664 enrolled on this course

Male nurse with protective mask giving a vaccine against COVID 19 to male
  • Duration

    2 weeks
  • Weekly study

    2 hours

Explore the critical role of research in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic took the world by surprise, causing a global health crisis. Reducing the spread of the disease and treating patients relied on how rapidly we could harness our research capabilities. This has led to developments that will change how we conduct future research.

On this course, you will understand the challenges that COVID-19 poses to health research communities and find out how scientists in the UK conduct innovative research that meets ethical, legal and safety requirements.

Understand the research process of developing new drugs and vaccines

You will look at the steps of the clinical research cycle to understand how vaccine development was sped up. You will also discover the spectrum of COVID-19 research taking place including the development of new life-saving treatments.

Learn about the importance of the public in delivering innovative research.

You will find out how ethical considerations and the safety of participants are central to research. In stimulating case studies, research participants discuss their experiences before, during, and after COVID-19 clinical trials.

This course will help you understand how crucial your participation in research is for the future of healthcare and the development of life-saving treatments and vaccines.

Discover the next challenges for researchers.

You will explore how our response to COVID-19 may affect the future of research, and find out the next big questions for researchers, such as understanding Long COVID and the development of future vaccines.

Our Lead Educator and Mentors will be on hand from October 4 to 29 to support discussions and to answer your questions. If you join the course after October 29, moderators will still be checking the comments regularly to respond to your queries.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds Dinesh Saralaya: COVID-19 has taught us that we, as a human population, are so vulnerable to any novel disease. Research has helped us find a cure to reduce death in our population and is finding a way, through the vaccines, for us to exit the pandemic.

Skip to 0 minutes and 25 seconds Speaker 2: On this course, you will understand the challenges that COVID-19 pose for health research, and find out how scientists managed to conduct innovative research that still meets ethical, legal, and safety requirements. You will explore the process for clinical research to understand how COVID-19 vaccines and treatments were developed and regulated at speed. You will find out about the crucial role the public played in the delivery of this research. If you want to find out more about the health research in relation to this pandemic, then join this course.


  • Week 1

    The research and development of vaccines in response to COVID-19

    • Welcome

      Before you begin the course, take time to find out about the key topics covered. You’ll also have the opportunity to meet your educators and other learners, and plan your learning journey.

    • What was the research challenge of COVID-19?

      In this activity, you’ll explore an overview of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the vast scale of the international research response. You’ll also consider the key reasons why health research is so important during the crisis.

    • How can vaccines help?

      In this activity, you’ll explore why vaccines are crucial to responding to infectious diseases. You’ll find out how vaccines are influential historically, and how they have become the primary way of controlling such outbreaks.

    • How do we ensure that clinical testing is safe and effective?

      In this activity, you’ll further explore how vaccines are developed and tested, and find out about the role of the public in this process. You’ll also explore the phases of testing and how safety levels are maintained.

    • Summary

      You’ve now reached the end of Week 1 of COVID-19: Understanding the Research Behind the Pandemic. In this activity, you’ll reflect on what you have learned and look ahead to Week 2.

  • Week 2

    Development of COVID-19 treatments and influencing future research

    • About Week 2

      This week, you’ll explore how COVID-19 treatments were developed, and how the pandemic has influenced the future of research.

    • How do we protect the rights and safety of the public in research?

      In this activity, you’ll further explore the role of the public in research trials, and how their safety and rights are protected. You’ll also find out how consent works during clinical trials when people may already be unwell.

    • What has research achieved so far?

      In this activity, you’ll explore examples of COVID-19 treatment studies. You’ll find out about the science behind them, and reflect on how their success has been made possible through unprecedented participation by the public.

    • Where next for research?

      In this activity, you’ll explore and reflect on different aspects of the lessons learned from COVID-19 research. You’ll also consider how this research might continue in the future.

    • Summary

      In this activity, you have the opportunity to reflect on the topics covered in this course and check your understanding. You may also want to consider some next steps that will help you to further develop your knowledge.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Develop an understanding of the critical role of research in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and how this has changed health research.
  • Explain the process of research and how this has been accelerated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Describe how vaccines have been developed and how this has been done safely and ethically.
  • Explain findings from COVID-19 treatment research and understand how COVID-19 treatments have been developed (including the role of members of the public).
  • Summarise how COVID-19 has changed the way that research will be delivered in the future, and why there is a need to continue COVID-19 research.
  • Explore how to find out more about taking part in research.

Who is the course for?

This course is for everyone interested in finding out about the research on COVID-19. This course is also useful for people that work in healthcare to help answer the questions members of the public may ask about COVID-19 research.

Who will you learn with?

I am a Public Engagement and Involvement Manager at the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network Coordinating Centre.

Who developed the course?

University of Leeds

As one of the UK’s largest research-based universities, the University of Leeds is a member of the prestigious Russell Group and a centre of excellence for teaching.

National Institute for Health Research

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded through the Department of Health and Social Care to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

Learner reviews

Learner reviews cannot be loaded due to your cookie settings. Please and refresh the page to view this content.

Do you know someone who'd love this course? Tell them about it...

You can use the hashtag #FLCOVID19Research to talk about this course on social media.