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Development and teaching of a large online undergraduate module


MODULE TITLE: Food Diet and Health
TARGET AUDIENCE: General elective
COLLABORATOR(S): Professor Frank Monahan, Mr Michael O’Sullivan, Dr Amalia Scannell, Dr Claire Timon



Food Diet and Health is a large general elective module which aims to give a basic understanding of nutrition, food science and food safety to students. It was developed in 2006 with an initial module capacity of about 200. It was quickly evident that this topic was hugely popular and that the capacity of the module needed to be increased. As a result, the module was run in both semesters for a number of years, with demand for the module growing each year.

At the same time the expertise in development and delivery of content in an online environment was growing within the group and it was felt that the material within Food Diet and Health would be ideal for delivery in an online environment. In 2015 the academic team contributing to the module decided to change delivery to an online module to facilitate the ever increasing demand.


To deliver a fully online undergraduate module to a large and diverse student group.


The module was set up in the following way to encourage participation and maintain contact with students taking the course. Lecture material (two lecture topics) are released on Monday of each week. Students are requested to read the lecture material and submit any questions on the material or associated topics by Thurs (either directly emailing the module tutor and/or using an online virtual learning environment forum). Questions received are examined by the relevant lecturer and approximately 10-15 are selected to be answered the following week during the live online class.

A PowerPoint presentation with the questions and answers is prepared by the lecturer and tutor in advance. The presentation is shared with the students during the live online classroom and the questions discussed by the lecturer. The students attend online and both see and hear the lecturer during the class. The online class is moderated by a module tutor, who takes questions typed in by students into the chat function of the virtual learning enviroment. These online classes are recorded for students to watch back in their own time. Attendance at these classes varies, but in a typical semester varies from 242 to 397 each week.

The course is assessed using two online MCQs within the semester (15% each), open for two hours on specified days, and one EOS MCQ held in the RDS (70%).


Student numbers on the module have increased to 462 and 489 in semester 1 and 2 of this year. These students completed a fully online module. There was no significant impact on grade distribution moving from a traditional face to face model to fully online. Student feedback remained positive for the module with 3.63 mean liking of the module (max 5.0). Specific comments on the online aspect indicated that the online lectures were informative and useful. Students liked the fact they could play back both the lectures and the online classes to watch more than once.

Students commented that providing notes/content in both video and written form allowed them to study the topic well. Student comments included: ‘Content was online so could be studied at any time’, ‘The online classes helped by being able to ask questions that you were unsure about from the lecture material’, ‘The slides are also attached with slides note, as well as learning from video. Overall, I find it is very interesting as we can choose which way of learning we opt to’.

Some did not like the online aspect, reporting that they would prefer some face to face contact in traditional lecture theatres ‘I'd prefer actual lectures to online ones. I found there was a lack of pressure on me to actually sit through them in my own time’. The majority of feedback was positive towards the online delivery mode.