Nov 12, 2010 - Desiree Perez
Exercise, health, nutrition – and the Internet? Combining technology and teaching is expected in Computer Science and Engineering programs, but the Department of Kinesiology and Recreation Administration has developed a way to combine interactive, online teaching with exercise and nutrition education.
Among the benefits the department is discovering: A notable hike in student participation and a sizable increase in enrollment.
“I was amazed that the participation seemed to be so much greater online versus face to face. I was kind of surprised, actually,” says Professor Kathy Munoz, who developed the four online courses that make up the Certificate in Exercise Nutrition at Humboldt State. “In some classes, it’s easy to just show up, sit in the back of the room and never participate, never do the readings. But not in this program.”
With three posts to an online discussion board required each week, students interact with one another at a much greater level than Munoz experienced in her traditional, face-to-face classroom settings. But the quality of interaction, too, has increased since moving the program online, Munoz says.
“It has opened up accessibility to a variety of students not only on campus, but from the community and beyond. And the quality of the interaction completely changes because of the variety of students,” Munoz says. “A majority of students are Humboldt State students, but about 30 percent are community people who are professionals. Most of them are coaches or they’re working in health related fields.”
“The certificate program provides students with a really great foundation for how to use exercise and nutrition to improve health,” she adds.
The program consists of four courses, totaling 12 units, to be taken in sequence over the course of one year. The classes required for the certificate include Nutrition for Athletic Performance (HED 342) and Optimal Bone and Muscle Metabolism (HED 446) offered in the fall. Weight Control (HED 344) and Pharmacology and Chemical Ergogenic Aids (KINS 447) are offered in the spring.
In the 1980s, Munoz wrote HED 342 and HED 344 as traditional, face-to-face courses. Later, in 2005, she was asked to redesign one of her classes for an online platform to evaluate whether students responded better to Moodle or Blackboard systems. The certificate was officially established as an online program in 2006.
In addition to increasing the level of participation, moving the certificate program online expanded enrollment.
“When I taught 344 as a face-to-face course, I had maybe 15 to 18 students enrolled,” Munoz says. “Last spring there were about 60 students. The same has been true in the 342 course.”
Munoz points to the flexible schedule of online courses as a main factor for the increase in enrollment. “It’s not conflicting with another course, so students aren’t restricted,” she says. “I think enrollment has also increased because more students are becoming aware of it.”
“I’ve had as many as 95 students in an online course,” Munoz adds. “But at three required posts a week, for 15 weeks, I’ve decided the maximum number of students should be capped at 60 to 65 to allow me to facilitate their learning more effectively.”
Even after limiting class sizes, Munoz still finds herself working online much of the time. “I spend a lot of time online with my students. I have an iPhone that’s next to me constantly,” Munoz says. “I’m online seven days a week, four to five hours a day.”
Munoz is in the Faculty Early Retirement Program, but will continue to teach the classes for up to four more years. “But I hope that the certificate will go on forever,” she says.