Academic journal article Human Ecology

Mighty MOOC: Online Nutrition Course Becomes a Surprise Success

Academic journal article Human Ecology

Mighty MOOC: Online Nutrition Course Becomes a Surprise Success

Article excerpt

When Cornell and UNICEF jointly developed a free online program on infant and young child nutrition in 2012, instructors expected about 200 people to enroll during the first year.

Instead, more than 5,500 UNICEF, governmental, and nongovernmental workers around the world registered.

Not only did enrollment surge, but 32 percent of students have finished the training, far exceeding the 2-10 percent completion rate for massive open online courses (MOOCs).

"I think the course is meeting a need," says Christina Stark, senior extension associate in nutritional sciences and program leader of Cornell NutritionWorks, a website for nutrition professionals that hosts the course. "And I think there is a strong desire for training in this area for the audience we are trying to reach."

The idea came from Mandana Arabi, PhD '07, who was working for UNICEF at the time and wanted to create a cost-effective, online course for staff and collaborators. So far, nutritionists and other health professionals from 170 countries have taken the classes, including Leela Ramesh, a volunteer for the Art of Living Foundation, a nongovernmental organization in Bangalore, India.

"As child malnutrition is a matter of great concern, and as healthy children are the best architects of a future India, I would like to help to combat it and to build a better and healthier India," says Ramesh, who is using what she learned in the course to launch a nutrition awareness program in her region.

Cornell nutritional sciences professors Kathleen Rasmussen, Rebecca Stoltzfus, and Jean-Pierre Habicht offer recorded lectures for units on infant and young child feeding, while UNICEF staff and other international experts deliver the rest. …

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