Spring 1990 // Volume 28 // Number 1 // Ideas at Work // 1IAW4

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Collaborative Teaching Through Electronic Programming


William D. Evers
Associate Professor and Extension Nutrition Specialist
Department of Foods and Nutrition
Purdue University
West Lafayette, Indiana

The educational issue is pills versus food for nutrition. To address this issue, Extension collaborated with the Indiana Dairy and Nutrition Council, Inc. and Milk Promotion Services of Indiana. Extension foods and nutrition specialists at Purdue University developed the program and accompanying materials to educate the public on the issue of using food to get the nutrients they need versus using a nutritional supplement. The program was delivered through the Indiana Higher Education Telecommunications System (IHETS) which broadcasts to 25 sites readily available for Cooperative Extension programs. The IHETS operates with one-way video, but two-way audio capabilities. This gives the audience a chance to ask questions that can be heard at all sites.

Entitled Pills vs Food, the two-hour program was shown once in the morning and once in the evening, and included videotapes, slides, live demonstrations, and brief lectures. Short scenarios were filmed on videotape and used as lead-ins to each section. Time was allotted for questions to be called in from the sites with answers from the presenters.

The most innovative part of the program was having an Extension home economist at each site as a "teaching partner" in the program. The sites weren't just passive viewing centers. Each segment of the program was introduced and discussed by a person at the state broadcast site. Then, the program was turned over to the receiving sites where the local Extension home economist would interact with the audience by raising questions about the presentation. The home economist integrated the information with the handout materials and demonstrated ways that the volunteer leaders could use the new knowledge in their individual club presentations. The program then returned to the television broadcast from Purdue for the next section.

Over 550 Extension Homemaker volunteers attended either the morning or evening program at 21 sites around the state. On average, each volunteer teaches the information to 10 other people, so about 5,000-6,000 people were reached with the information. The Extension agents expanded their roles as teaching partners by presenting part of the lesson, giving high-quality handouts, and using a variety of techniques without having to travel to several places on different days.

The volunteers were able to come to a site situated reasonably close to their homes and still receive an educational lesson that included people and resources from the state university. The state Extension specialists and the staff from the Dairy Council were able to reach the learners without spending money traveling to several different places in the state.

A program evaluation indicated that 90% of the volunteers felt they'd learned new information, particularly in the areas of food labeling and nutrient needs. Almost half of the respondents indicated they'd changed their attitude about taking nutrient supplements, and would be less inclined to do so. Seventy percent responded they expected to change their behavior as a result of the program. The most common changes indicated were plans to evaluate diets for the key nutrients, read food labels more carefully, and become more aware of portion sizes of food servings.

To continue to teach Extension audiences about nutrition and health in a time of decreasing resources requires the best use of available technologies. Using television and the skills of state and county Extension staff as teaching partners turned out to be an excellent way to reach a large number of learners with high-quality programming.