Nutrition program offers online learning
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 08:10
The Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy announced last month that its Master of Nutrition in Science and Policy (MNSP) degree program will enroll its first class of students at the school’s Boston campus next fall.
The four-semester “blended learning” program is the only master’s degree in nutrition in the country that offers a combination of online courses with campus residencies and face-to-face teaching, according to Lynne Ausman, professor at the Friedman School and director of the MNSP program.
“[The residencies] last between one [and] one-and-a-half weeks for every semester, so for every class a student is taking, they get two to three full days of lecturing and student interaction in that class,” Ausman said. “By the time the student leaves here, they’ve met all the faculty, they know the resources of the school and they kind of know each other. So everyone is really jazzed.”
The blended learning approach was first established at the Friedman School in 2009 after the government of Ras Al Khaimah, one of the United Arab Emirates, reached out to the school to develop a program to promote careers in health, wellness and nutrition, according to Ausman.
Ausman said that the program caters to a broad range of students and is especially helpful to people currently in the workforce looking for an opportunity to pursue a master’s degree.
“There are some people with bachelor’s degrees who desperately want to get a master’s degree and go forward in their profession and workforce, but just can’t quit their job,” she said. “I just think it’s capacity-building and will provide something that’s desperately needed.”
The school will be able to boost its teaching capacity through the program, Director of Communications at the Friedman School Mark Krumm said.
“It gives people who couldn’t otherwise come to Boston for two years and earn a master’s at the Friedman School the opportunity to do that,” he said. “It may be people freshly out of undergraduate [school] who don’t want to take on a whole lot more debt by moving to Boston for the residential program ... They could work part-time and take the master’s degree.”
Krumm said studies have shown that blended learning produces equivalent and sometimes better outcomes than the full residential classroom experience.
“You can actually come to Tufts, sit in the classroom, be face-to-face with the faculty and your fellow students and then have that supplemented by having all of your lectures in an online environment,” he said.
Unlike all other programs at Friedman, MNSP focuses on both science and policy, Ausman said.
“This is a little bit more general for students who are trying to update themselves or get a feeling for a new area and for somebody who doesn’t even know the area they’re interested in,” she said.
Although no nutrition experience is necessary to enroll, she explained that students must have a strong background in science to meet prerequisites.
“In this program, everyone has to have a science background because half of the material they learn is science, but the other half is policy, and there’s no other program like that in the school,” she said.
The MNSP program in Ras Al Khaimah consists of only one-third U.S. citizens, according to Ausman. She said she expects the program to become more popular for U.S. citizens over the next few years due to the ability to complete a residency on the Boston campus.
“We aren’t looking to fill up a class of 100 students in the first year,” Krumm said. “It would be great if we had 20 students or so in the first year and the first cohort of the program. When you look at the size of the school, roughly 10 percent growth would be pretty substantial for the program.”