Introduction: For over
years, the Department of Nutrition, in cooperation with the STEM Education
Institute, has offered online nutrition courses for teachers and
students. The Nutrition
Online (NEO) course is designed to provide elementary and secondary teachers
with the experience and skills to utilize technology for applying nutrition
information in the classroom. The Nutrition for a Healthy Lifestyle Online
course (NHO) is designed to meet undergraduate general education science
requirements. Both courses
nutrition science and applications, along with use of computer technologies
as web searches, online quizzes, and threaded discussions.
After an introductory in-person workshop, the courses are completed
solely at a distance, using the O’Reilly Webboard software for communication
among participants and instructors.
interface allows for in-depth discussions, debates, and collaborative
Course participants have been evaluated using a pretest/posttest
for knowledge and behavior change, satisfaction with the amount of
perceptions towards learning online, and course satisfaction.
In order to compare in-person and online learning, the NHO course was
evaluated using a quasi-experimental design, in which students from a large
on-campus lecture-style introductory nutrition course were compared to those
taught via the Internet. This
enabled comparisons of student attitudes and outcomes among traditional-age
non-traditional (age 24 or older) students in both lecture and online
knowledge and comfort.
NEO teachers increased their comfort teaching nutrition and using the
in teaching, increased the amount of nutrition used in classroom teaching,
gained nutrition knowledge. Among undergraduates, the non-traditional online
students began the course with higher nutrition knowledge than traditional
online and lecture students.
grade scores were also higher among non-traditional online students than the
younger students or their lecture counterparts.
teacher participants in the NEO course rated the
level of participant-participant and participant-instructor interaction
while NHO undergraduate students rated the interaction as moderate. The
non-traditional online NHO students posted more messages in the Webboard
traditional online and lecture students.
Overall NEO course ratings were very high among
the teachers. Perceptions of
value of the NHO course, the amount of nutrition learned, and effort
were all highest among the non-traditional online students, moderate in the
lecture students, and lowest in the traditional online students.
However, ratings of overall NHO course usefulness were similar in
groups of online students, and higher than ratings from those in the lecture
Summary. Through these
courses, we have noted that teachers and older students tend to have more
positive experiences with online learning than traditional undergraduates. Lessons learned and recommendations for designing
online courses for different learners will be discussed.