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Nutrition faculty member uses mini grant to develop on-line teaching

Posted On October 27, 2016
Categories News

Jessica Todd, nutrition, received a CEI mini-grant to develop and assess online teaching in preparation for offering the Masters of Science in Health Sciences online in 2017.

“Many faculty members feel online instruction cannot be as effective as in-person teaching, and I believe that it can,” she says.

Todd taught her first online class in 2013 and discovered that her evaluations were lower for the online section than the in-person section. She sought help from the Center for Instructional Innovation (CII), found that students had short attention spans for online work and also needed to feel connected to the instructor. So in 2015, she began to devise ways to bridge the connection gap.

“My goal with my [second]online course was to increase my evaluations as well and determine if students felt they learned as much in an online course as in person. If successful, I wanted to share the results with the faculty to establish some “best practices” with online teaching…”

“I recorded mini, 10-15 minute lectures while highlighting and providing direct examples on PowerPoint… the students LOVED it,” says Todd. “I required weekly post-learning assessments, using the books supplemental program called MindTap. Students had to complete quizzes at the end of the week related to the chapter. Some weeks included case studies, discussions, or other activities.”

Todd also provided a connection via weekly updates in a news feed. There, she reminded them what was due, what she would cover that week, similar to verbal updates given in class.

Finally, Todd surveyed her online course students throughout the semester to get feedback. Among the students’ responses were an appreciation for the mini-lectures, the need for a study guide and additional time for testing. Students responded that their grades online reflected the effort they put into the course and had only a few suggested changes. Todd kept them in the loop by providing results to the surveys.

As a consequence of the experience, Todd determined that much of what she had attempted worked after her consultation with CII. She determined that adding a virtual classroom where students can discuss assignments and help each other as well as offering virtual office hours would be helpful. She also discovered weaknesses in some of the external resources.

“Ninety-five percent of the students felt they learned just as much in this course as they would in an in-person course – this was huge for me and validated my efforts,” Todd says. As a bonus, her overall course evaluation rose by nearly a full point.

Todd thanks Miguel Muirhead, Lewis School educational technology specialist, for training her on the technology and answering any last minute questions.