Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Evaluation of a Blended Design in a Large General Education Nutrition Course

Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Evaluation of a Blended Design in a Large General Education Nutrition Course

Article excerpt

Introduction

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, undergraduate enrollment at accredited institutions of higher education in the U.S increased by 37% between 2000 and 2010.

Many institutions are experiencing record increases in enrollment, yet faculty appointments and other resources often remain the same. One solution to this problem is to increase the number of students taught per course, however, empirical evidence suggests that students in large enrollment courses rate these courses less favorably and perceive themselves as learning less than they do when taught in smaller sections (Monks and Schmidt, 2010; Toth and Montagna, 2002). The blended learning model is gaining popularity due to evidence that if offers advantages over both traditional and purely web-based models of instruction (Stizmann et al., 2006; Department of Education, 2010). In some cases, it may provide an alternative approach to the traditional lecturebased delivery of large enrollment courses.

Blended learning, also known as hybrid learning, is the integration of traditional face-to-face instruction with online learning and instruction in which students have some degree of control regarding the time, place, and or pace of the instruction (Holden, 2010; Duhaney, 2004). Blended learning can assume many formats. Well-planned blended course designs maximize the benefits and minimize the limitations of fully face-toface or online formats. For example, where face-to-face learning is usually teacher-directed and provides little flexibility in terms of time, place, and pace of instruction, online learning expands the boundary of the physical classroom and puts students in charge of when, where, and how they learn. Kinzie and Sullivan (1989) propose that students' motivation to learn is enhanced when learners have greater control over these factors. In addition, while students of fully online courses often feel isolated from other students and instructors, traditional face-to-face instruction provides opportunity for frequent and direct interactions. These differences are noteworthy because motivation to learn and the degree of student-student and student-instructor interaction are independent predictors of both student satisfaction and performance (Colquitt et al., 2000; McFarlin, 2008; Riffel and Sibley, 2005).

Cohen et al. (2011) found that students enrolled in higher-education nutrition courses gained knowledge in both online and traditional face-to-face nutrition courses, however, student satisfaction for these courses was mixed and depended to a large degree on student and instructor characteristics. Little research is available on the effectiveness of blended delivery of courses within the discipline of nutrition or as applied to large enrollment courses (> 200 students). The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a blended delivery method that included both traditional face-toface classroom instruction with online learning activities in a large enrollment general nutrition course offered to both on-campus and distance education students.

Materials and Methods

The study procedures were reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board at Utah State University. All students enrolled in the general nutrition course (NDFS 1020) during spring semester 2011 were invited to participate. The on-campus and distance sections of the course were taught by different instructors. Only students who agreed to participate and who completed the course were included in the analyses presented here (n=285 on-campus students; 97 distance-education students).

The Blend

Approximately half of the course (1.5 credits) was delivered in the traditional face-to-face lecture-based format. The other half of the course was delivered in an online learning environment using the platform of the Blackboard learning management system (Blackboard Vista, Blackboard Inc., Washington D.C., 2010-2011). …

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