Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Students' Perceptions and Satisfaction with a Web-Based Human Nutrition Course

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Students' Perceptions and Satisfaction with a Web-Based Human Nutrition Course

Article excerpt

Objectives. To assess the perceptions and satisfaction of third-year pharmacy students with a Web-based, distance-learning course, Principles of Human Nutrition, and describe the challenges faculty members encountered while implementing the course.

Design. The human nutrition course was redesigned from a traditional classroom-based format to a Web-based format. Precourse and postcourse surveys were administered to 2 consecutive classes of 120 students.

Assessment. Students gave positive feedback regarding the Web-based format and especially appreciated the flexibility the course offered. Students recommended that a hybrid Web-based/classroom-based course be developed instead of a Web-based only course.

Conclusion. A Web-based format was used to effectively deliver a course in human nutrition to third-year pharmacy students; however, implementation of the course revealed several challenges that will need to be addressed before additional Web-based courses can be added.

Keywords: Web-based, distance learning, online learning, Internet, nutrition

INTRODUCTION

The Internet has become an integral part of our daily lives and many students clamor for Web-based courses that offer them flexibility that fits their lifestyles. (1,2) Web-based learning in pharmacy education comprises educational strategies that use the Internet and can include tutorials, online discussion groups, or the use of virtual patients. (2) Online tutorials, though similar to face-to-face lectures, can be enhanced by multimedia features such as sound, graphics, video, and animation. In online discussion groups, the lecturer, called the facilitator, facilitates online discussion. Facilitators provide rules and boundaries, and students communicate either asynchronously (delay between sending messages and receiving responses) or synchronously (live). Virtual patients are computer-based patient simulations. Students glean information from the virtual patient such as medical or medication history, chief complaint, or physical examination findings. Students can also order laboratory tests or initiate pharmacological or non-pharmacological therapy for the patient. Recent research and learning theory has provided enough evidence to suggest that innovative learning environments with the Internet can provide useful features not available in the traditional classroom; however, in terms of learning/education, it is the quality of instruction rather than the capabilities of the technology that is most important. (3) Advantages of Web-based courses include flexibility in participation, ease of accessing tutorials or updating materials and documenting evaluations and assessments. (2) Despite all the benefits of Web-based learning, there are several negative aspects that may be encountered, including social isolation as the student studies alone, faculty members not providing individualized instruction for specific learning needs, cost, technical problems, poor instructional design, and the use of technology for entertainment rather than education. (1,2) The literature describes additional barriers that faculty members may encounter when re-designing a traditional classroom lecture into a Web-based curriculum, including additional time needed for course preparation; excessive one-on-one faculty-student communication (eg, e-mails, telephone calls, etc); and lack of technical expertise needed to design quality instructional/curricular components. (1,2) The latter barrier particularly may be a problem because students expect and demand a high level of quality from Web-based courses, and faculty members are responsible for developing quality Web-based courses that stimulate students' learning experiences. (4)

The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy provides fewer than half of the pharmacists needed in the state of Maryland; thus, stakeholders are asking for expanded pharmacy student enrollment. The current physical facilities do not allow for increased enrollment on campus. …

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