Problem-Based Learning and Online Tool Results in Peer Nutrition Education Program

August 17, 2012

London, ON – In an article published in the July issue of American Journal of Health Sciences, co-authors Dr. June Matthews and Dr. Paula Dworatzek, both associate professors at Brescia University College, reported on a unique experiential learning assignment whereby students used a novel online tool with real-world applications. The result was a soon-to-be-implemented peer nutrition education program by and for university students.

Problem-based learning, combined with the teaching pedagogy over a three-year span, allowed the students to focus on developing core competencies in public health. They did this through the use of the Online Health Program Planner, a tool created by Public Health Ontario. Students reported that this way of learning enhanced their critical thinking skills, and “gave meaning to their work while motivating them to do their best.” According to Dworatzek, “what was really interesting and rewarding about this assignment, was observing the students transition from feeling overwhelmed by a self-directed learning process to being confident in the quality and quantity of work that they accomplished.”

Laura Vandervet, a former student in the program, explains how she has been impacted by the experience and says “navigating through the Online Health Program Planner helped to integrate academic principles and imparted skills important to my current position as a Health Promotions Planner.”

“This is really a report on experiential learning,” says Dworatzek, who team taught the course with Matthews. Both professors saw a need to combine community nutrition with an emphasis on program planning and evaluation that could then be applied in a real-world setting.

Public Health Ontario is excited to see that the use of the tool has yielded such positive feedback. “As a partner in the development of the Online Health Program Planner, with the National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools, we’re pleased to see that a unique set of users has embraced the Online Health Program Planner for their learning needs,” says Melody Roberts, manager of capacity building services at Public Health Ontario.

The students who took the course were all graduate students who had a deep understanding of technology, aiding in the success of the findings, explains Matthews. “The Ontario Health Program Planner is well-suited for the millennial generation. These highly-connected students quickly grasped the benefit of using an online approach to program planning, similar to what individuals in public health units across the province are already doing.”

Matthews and Dworatzek hope that going forward, students are able to develop and evaluate new strategies similar to the peer nutrition education program, where the information is relevant to the students.

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For more information please contact Colleen Aguilar, Communications, Marketing & External Relations Officer, at 519.432.8353, ext. 28280

Brescia University College, Canada’s premier women’s university college, is affiliated with Western University. The 1,275 women registered as either full or part-time students at Brescia study a wide variety of subjects in Arts, Social Sciences, and Foods & Nutrition in an empowering, compassionate, student-centred, and invigorating environment. Degrees are granted by Western. The Catholic College welcomes students from all backgrounds and values diversity. For more current and archived news, a listing of faculty experts, and photos please visit our Online Media Room at