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Master of Science (M.S.)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
Nutrition, Dietetics, Distance education, Computer-based simulations
Distance education (DE) can address barriers to training nutrition professionals by offering a convenient, flexible and efficient way of learning. One particularly valuable teaching tool in DE is the use of computer-based simulations (CBS). CBS stimulates confidence building, acquisition of new knowledge, exposure to new and challenging patient cases in a safe learning environment, development of communication and critical thinking skills, and the cultivation of sensitivity towards patient needs. Despite the benefits, there is a lack of research examining dietetic educator’s perceptions of and experience with CBS. Goals of this study were to determine: 1) whether dietetic program educators were open to the idea of using CBS and how these responses varied in relation to different factors, and 2) dietetic program educators’ perceptions of the benefits and barriers of using CBS. Secondary data analyses were conducted on a15-item survey developed by the American Dietetic Association (ADA). Surveys contained two qualitative questions and 13 quantitative questions related to CBS. Surveys were e-mailed via the ADA listserv to 535 program directors, including Dietetic Internship Programs (DI), Coordinated Programs in Dietetics (CP), Didactic Programs in Dietetics (DPD), and the Dietetic Technician Programs (DT). A total of 165 individuals responded to the survey. The majority of respondents were open to the use of CBS (n=117) and a small number were not open (n=24). Respondents open to CBS were more likely to 1) not prefer face-to-face communication with their students and colleagues 2) currently be using online case studies and simulations 3) be using standardized patients in supervised practice 4) believe that dietetics education needs alternatives to traditional supervised practice such as CBS 5) believe that they have IT and financial support from their administration 6) have medical simulation laboratories available for dietetics students 7) believe that they had the technological skills needed to use CBS. Educators commented on the potential for CBS to address the shortage of preceptors and facilities available for supervised practice, in addition to enhancing and expediting learning in various settings. Perceived barriers, included the idea that technology impedes learning and a concern about the resources needed to implement CBS. Understanding the perspectives and practices of education program directors is a crucial component of furthering the process of incorporating CBS into nutrition education. This is exciting new terrain for nutrition education and moving forward with research in both distance education and CBS will be beneficial to enhancing nutrition and dietetics education in DE, traditional classroom settings and in supervised practice.
Elena T. Carbone