Distance Education in Undergraduate Dietetic Education

By Benton-King, Carrie; Webb, Derek F. et al. | Journal of Allied Health, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview

Distance Education in Undergraduate Dietetic Education


Benton-King, Carrie, Webb, Derek F., Holmes, ZoeAnn, Journal of Allied Health


Distance education is an exploding phenomenon that allows people to pursue higher education on their own time, at a pace that meets their needs, in locations where there are no colleges and universities, or where there is not a desired program of study. This study examined the use of distance education in undergraduate dietetic education programs and the opportunities for obtaining an undergraduate degree in dietetics solely via distance education. A survey was sent to all directors (n = 279) of undergraduate programs accredited/approved by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education to determine the current status and projected future use of distance education in their institutions' on-campus programs. The survey had a 54% response rate. Approximately 32% (n = 150) of undergraduate dietetics programs offer distance education courses in some format. Institutions that offer nondietetics distance education courses were more likely to offer dietetics distance education courses. The most common distance education format utilized in dietetics was 100% Internet courses (48%). The most common distance education dietetics course offered was a basic or introductory nutrition course (31%). From the data of courses offered, or permitted to be transferred, it would not be possible for a student to complete an undergraduate degree in dietetics solely via distance education methodologies at the time this study was conducted. J Allied Health 2005; 34:36-39.

DISTANCE EDUCATION is an exploding phenomenon that allows people to pursue higher education on their own time, at a pace that meets their needs, in locations where there are no colleges and universities, or where there is not a desired program of study. Distance education has heen defined as "formal teacher-learner arrangements in which the teacher and the learner are separated most of the time, and the communication between them is distributed via electronic media."1 Although print-based media methodologies are utilized for distance education delivery, this research focused on the definition by Siegel et al.1 Types of electronic media utilized in distance education include Internet-based instruction, satellite broadcasts, videotapes, videoconferencing, email, threaded bulletin board discussions, synchronous chat technologies, telephone, facsimile, and teleconference.2"6

Although 50%7 to 70%8 of higher education institutions currently provide courses over the Internet to meet student demand, a review of the literature indicates that very little research has been conducted on the availability of distance education in the dietetics profession. (A detailed review of literature was completed for the primary author's MS thesis project, including review of distance education journals. References for this article were selected to focus on allied health interests.) The most recent investigation on the use of distance education in the dietetics profession, conducted by the Council on Education and American Dietetic Association education and accreditation staff, was published in 1995.9 Of the 591 program directors surveyed, 19 programs (3%) reported the use of distance education in their dietetics curriculum. In a survey of 354 directors one year later, 11% reported the use of distance education in their programs.

The purpose of this study was to assess the availability of distance education in undergraduate dietetics education. Additionally, the opportunities for obtaining an undergraduate degree in dietetics solely via distance education were examined.

Methods

A tailored survey was sent to all directors of dietetic programs (coordinated and didactic) to determine the current status and projected future use of distance education technologies in their institutions' on-campus programs. From these responses and demographics, the potential for attaining an undergraduate degree in dietetics solely via distance education was examined. Complete results of the survey can be obtained from the contact author. …

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