Introductory Nutrition Course Offered Online

Improve the Nation's Nutrition and Health
Research Year: 

Completing a college degree in a reasonable time span is a challenge for both traditional and nontraditional students. Many students must work, raise families, or complete internships while working on their degree. Distance education facilitates timely degree completion for students so they can pursue their professions.

Description of Action: 

The UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Nutritional Science Department and Distributed Learning Lab created an online interactive, student-centered introductory nutrition course in 1998 in addition to the traditional in-class version. Nutrition, Food and You covers the principles of human nutrition. Topics include digestion, absorption and metabolism of energy nutrients; vitamin structure and function; minerals in the body; eating disorders; nutrition and the life cycle; nutrition and disease; food safety; and the world food situation. The emphasis of the course is the scientific approach to understanding human nutritional needs for proper growth, development and life.

The course is offered online during fall, spring, summer and winter sessions. A campus server hosts course-management software for course communication, interactive exercises and testing. The course is offered as an elective or can fulfill a University of Arizona Tier I Biological Science General Education requirement. An orientation is held at the beginning of each term or students can obtain start-up instructions electronically.


Course enrollment has increased dramatically from the 30 students who originally enrolled in the course in 1998. By December 2006, more than 10,000 students had completed the introductory nutrition course from the convenience of their own computers. The department has evaluated the effectiveness of offering these distributed courses by comparing performance of the online students to those taking the course in a traditional classroom. No difference was found in exam scores, final grades, or between pretest and post-test scores for the two learning environments. The program fulfills one of the Arizona Board of Regents priorities: to expand access to the university.

Funding Agencies: 

University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Conact Name: 
Jennifer Ricketts
Contact E-mail: 
Contact Address: 

The University of Arizona

PO Box 210038

Tucson, AZ 85721

Tel: (520) 621-6999 FAX: (520) 621-4669