Lessons Learned during the Transition to Online Learning in a University Nutrition and Exercise Department


In the spring semester of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led to an unprecedented shift from face-to-face learning to an instantaneous online learning environment. At the time, the department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise (HNFE) at Virginia Tech had few online class offerings. Twenty-nine Spring 2020 HNFE classes were transitioned from traditional face-to-face offerings to online delivery models. Many members of the HNFE faculty have strong pedagogical training, but the immediate pedagogical shift in the middle of the semester gave little time for adequate course design geared toward online learning. As such, the purpose of this study was to evaluate student perceptions of the transition to online learning. A departmental survey employing quantitative and qualitative questions was used to assess students’ learning experiences in the spring of 2020 and then re-employed at the conclusion of the Fall 2020 semester to re-assess students’ online course experience and identify if the department was improving in online course delivery. An additional component of the survey specifically evaluated students’ self-perceived motivation for learning. Examples of educational and logistical strategies in online learning environments implemented by instructors and findings of students’ experiences from both surveys will be shared.