The Use of Asynchronous Learning Networks in Nutrition Education: Student Attitude, Experiences and Performance
In this study a change in teaching strategy to involve a greater emphasis on asynchronous learning networks (ALNs) was implemented and the views of students (n=51) to this change were evaluated through responses to an online questionnaire. In response to Likert-type questions the majority of students demonstrated a positive view of this new model. Sixty-one percent of students felt that other types of online material would benefit the learning process and 80 % would recommend this module to a friend. Students acknowledged that the use of ALN-supported learning made the material easier to understand (52%), the lecturer more accessible (66%) and enabled them to take a more active role in the learning process (55%). <
Though only 10% of students utilized the asynchronous newsgroup more than 5 times, 77% found reading the contributions of others useful. Contrary to this 76% preferred the more familiar lecture-based environment for subject delivery. In response to open-ended questions students' views were more reserved and highlighted a range of problems such as inadequate infrastructure, unreliable computers, and poor access to the online material as well as resistance to a new teaching paradigm. Student performance was influenced by age and contribution to the newsgroup. Those who were younger had a lower grade (47.8 ± 15.8) than those who were older (52.0 ± 11.4). Students with higher grades (56.2 ± 10.3) contributed to the newsgroup while students with lower grades (45.7 ± 12.5) did not.
Based on these observations, it is apparent that students do appreciate the advantages of ALN-supported learning though for a shift toward this model to be effective problems of access and system failure must be resolved. Implications for future ALN-based modules are discussed.