EPI1: Basic Epidemiological Concepts - Course Outline


This course will introduce you to the field of epidemiology as it pertains to the practice of public health. The focus is on fundamental concepts in epidemiology, including causation, the epidemiologic triad, public health surveillance, and the natural history of disease, all grounded in the public health approach. It is the first course in a suite of three introductory courses focused on epidemiology and public health. The other two courses are EPI2: Measurement of Health Status and EPI3: Epidemiological Methods and each course builds on the knowledge acquired in the previous one.


There are no prerequisites for this course.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this course you will:


Successful completion of this course contributes to the attainment of the following Core Competencies for Public Health In Canada:

The Learning Process

This course is divided into five lessons, with four assignments and three discussion forum activities. Each lesson ends with a self‐assessment test. You will have eight weeks to complete the 23-31 hours of work required (about 3‐5 hours per week is suggested; see the learning schedule below).

A trained online facilitator, knowledgeable in public health, is assigned to your group to provide support and guidance. The facilitator is available to answer content‐related questions, provide feedback on assignments, and encourage discussion among participants through discussion forums.

EPI1 Learning Schedule

This schedule is a guide to help you pace yourself as you go through the course. Please aim to complete the discussion activities "in sync" with the other learners.

Time Period Course Work Estimated # of hours
Week 1

Getting Started: what you need to know and do

  • Make sure you can access all parts of the site 
  • Review material
  • Introduce yourself and respond to fellow learners on the Discussion Forum: Welcome to Basic Epidemiological Concepts

Lesson 1: Epidemiology - Definitions, origins and uses

  • Start Lesson 1
2 - 3 hours
Week 2

Lesson 1: Epidemiology - Definitions, origins and uses

  • Finish Lesson 1
  • Complete Discussion Activity 1 
  • Complete Assignment 1
  • Complete Self-Assessment for Lesson 1
3 - 4 hours
Week 3

Lesson 2: Cause and effect in epidemiology

  • Complete Lesson 2
  • Complete Discussion Activity 2
  • Complete Assignment 2
  • Complete Self-Assessment for Lesson 2
5 - 6 hours
Week 4

Lesson 3: The Natural History of Disease

  • Complete Lesson 3
3 - 4 hours
Week 5

Lesson 3: The Natural History of Disease

  • Complete Discussion Activity 3
  • Complete Assignment 3
  • Complete Self-Assessment for Lesson 3
3 - 4 hours
Week 6

Lesson 4: Public Health Surveillance

  • Complete Lesson 4
3 - 4 hours
Weeks 7

Lesson 4: Public Health Surveillance

  • Complete Assignment 4
3 - 4 hours
Week 8

Finishing Up

  • Ensure you have completed all parts of the course, have submitted all assignments and completed discussion activities.
  • Complete Final Feedback Survey
1 - 2  hours
Total: 23-31 hours

Course Features


The lessons in this course utilize a mix of text, figures and links to websites to:

Discussion Forums

Discussion forums are integral to the course. Messages can be posted and read on the forum system whenever convenient — 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The discussion activities focus on the application of epidemiology to public health practice. You are asked to share your thoughts and experiences on several topics that are covered in the course, including a fairly challenging reflection on the application of ethical principles in practice.


Assignments feature in all the courses, allowing you to reflect on the course content and to apply some of the concepts and principles to your work as a public health practitioner.

The assignments in this course require some thought and preparation. You are asked to reflect on the meaning of epidemiology, to work through an outbreak report, to review surveillance reports, to examine the natural history of disease, and to describe an ethical dilemma.

Assignments take no more than a page or two. Your facilitator will review, grade and provide individual feedback for each assignment. An incomplete assignment will be returned with your facilitator’s comments and a request to resubmit.


Following each lesson you will be able to complete a short quiz to evaluate your understanding of the subject matter presented within each lesson. You will receive automatic feedback on your performance.


Successful completion of this course requires you to:

  1. complete all activities within the prescribed time frame for each;
  2. receive a satisfactory rating for all four assignments;
  3. participate in each of the three discussion forums;
  4. complete the final feedback survey questionnaire.


Participants receive a certificate from the Public Health Agency of Canada upon successful completion of the course.

Registration information is available at Skills Online-Register For Courses page. Note: you must be registered and logged in to access the registration page.

Note: Completion of this course contributes to the following Learning Pathcertificates:

Last course revision: August 2015