Enrollment in online courses is growing faster than overall higher education offerings due to various reasons like the economic downturn, according to the Babson Survey Research Group.
With the increase in demand for online education, a study in the March/April 2011 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior explores nine online nutrition courses.
Since nutrition courses meet general education science requirements and professional education needs in dietetics, medical, nursing, and other allied health curricula, nutrition is among the many postsecondary subjects commonly taught online. Investigators from the University of Massachusetts reviewed published literature concerning online nutrition education courses. Findings from this study revealed four quasi-experimental studies that indicated no differences in nutrition knowledge or achievement between online and face-to-face learners. Results were inconclusive regarding student satisfaction, motivation, or perceptions.
Unfortunately, there is limited research about the effectiveness of nutrition education online courses. With the increase in demand for online courses, this is an area of research that has to be investigated to ensure that we effectively educate college students, especially since this is a population that often has poor diet habits. A college credit course affords an excellent . opportunity to reach this population. The researchers, which also included Drs. Elena Carbone and Patricia Beffa-Negrini, registered dietitians and professors at the University of Massachusetts, agree that "more up-to-date investigations on effective practices are warranted, using theories to identify factors that enhance student outcomes, addressing emerging technologies, and documenting online nutrition education courses marketing, management, and delivery."
The article emphasizes the importance of presenting and publishing experiences with online courses in general, not just nutrition education courses, to build the knowledge base in this growing field.