Online Nutrition Courses: Fad or Growing Trend?

New study in Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior assesses online nutrition education

St. Louis, MO, March 8, 2011 – Most of us have heard of Phoenix, no, not the mystical bird or the capital of Arizona, but the online university. According to the Babson Survey Research Group, enrollment in online courses is growing faster than overall higher education offerings due to various reasons like the economic downturn. 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.

This study documents that although many components of nutrition education have been successfully included in online courses, there are still some areas that need improvement. Dr. Nancy Cohen, professor at the University of Massachusetts states, “Students can gain knowledge in online as well as in face to face nutrition courses, but satisfaction is mixed. Online learning has advantages such as overcoming time and distance barriers, capacity to share resources among colleges and universities to wide audiences, and the ability to use innovative multimedia and virtual instructional methods. However, if online courses are designed in such a way that traditional face to face methods like textbook readings, lectures, and examinations are published on the Internet without considering social isolation, de-individualized instruction, and using technology for the sake of technology, effective learning may not occur.”

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.

The article is “The Design, Implementation, and Evaluation of On-line Credit Nutrition Courses: A Systematic Review” by Nancy L. Cohen, PhD, RD, LDN; Elena T. Carbone, DrPH, RD, LDN; Patricia A. Beffa-Negrini, PhD, RD. It appears in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 43, Issue 2 (March/April 2011) published by Elsevier.


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Full text of the article is available to journalists upon request; contact Nancy Burns at 314-447-8013 or jnebmedia@elsevier.comto obtain copies. To schedule an interview with the authors please contact Dr. Nancy L. Cohen by email atcohen@nutrition.umass.edu or by phone at 413-545-1079.

About the Authors 
Nancy L. Cohen, PhD, RD, LDN; Department of Nutrition, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
Elena T. Carbone, DrPH, RD, LDN; Department of Nutrition, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
Patricia A. Beffa-Negrini, PhD, RD; Department of Nutrition, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA

About The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior ( www.jneb.org) 
The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB), the official journal of the Society for Nutrition Education (SNE), is a refereed, scientific periodical that serves as a resource for all professionals with an interest in nutrition education and dietary/physical activity behaviors. The purpose of JNEB is to document and disseminate original research, emerging issues, and practices relevant to nutrition education and behavior worldwide and to promote healthy, sustainable food choices. It supports the society’s efforts to disseminate innovative nutrition education strategies, and communicate information on food, nutrition, and health issues to students, professionals, policy makers, targeted audiences, and the public.

The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior features articles that provide new insights and useful findings related to nutrition education research, practice, and policy. The content areas of JNEB reflect the diverse interests of health, nutrition, education, Cooperative Extension, and other professionals working in areas related to nutrition education and behavior. As the Society's official journal, JNEB also includes occasional policy statements, issue perspectives, and member communications.

About Elsevier

Elsevier is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and sometimes make groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions — among them ScienceDirect, Scopus, Elsevier Research Intelligence,and ClinicalKey—and publishes over 2,200 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and over 25,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works.

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Media Contact
Nancy Burns
Elsevier
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