Morgan Cripps reads notes for Nutrition 100, a large lecture class available online for UT Knoxville students.

Learning Online

Morgan Cripps reads notes for Nutrition 100, a large lecture class available online for UT Knoxville students. Photo by Wade Payne

By Alex Cate

It’s midnight on a week night, and campus is eerily quiet. The Strip is nearly empty, and most students have gone to sleep. For Morgan Cripps, class is just starting.

The low hum of her computer starts as she opens her laptop at her apartment desk. There she’ll find everything she needs for her Nutrition 100 class: notes, assignments and even a lecture recorded by her instructor.

“We don’t really do anything that most kids wouldn’t do if they were in a normal classroom, other than it just being online,” says Cripps, a junior studying animal science at UT Knoxville.

The nutrition department began the online metamorphosis with a pilot version of the online class offered in spring 2012. Then several “hybrid” classes were offered over the past year, combining elements of both traditional and online classes. Students completed assignments online but attended class for exams.

“In the right setting, I think there is a great need for classes that are online,” says instructor Lee Murphy, who also teaches traditional classes with students attending twice-weekly lectures. “This just works both ways—in a traditional and online setting.”

Each course section has an online webpage through Blackboard Learn and the Office of Information Technology, where students access course information, materials and grades.

Murphy’s Nutrition 100 Blackboard page directs students to the class’ online portal with the textbook provider, McGraw-Hill. There, Murphy posts lecture videos, PowerPoint slides and assignments, and she communicates electronically with students.

During the test phases, the nutrition department studied the results of students taking the classes online versus in class. They recognized similar test results in the online classes as the traditional classes and offered Nutrition 100 completely online for the first time in spring 2013.

Most notably, the class offers students more flexibility in scheduling, something that is becoming increasingly important.

“I really enjoy it,” says sophomore Tara Rogers. “I’m a nursing major, and every other class I have is detailed and time consuming, so it’s nice to have a class where I can do it on my time. I work, too, so I can do it on nights and weekends.”

Beginning summer 2013, students could take Nutrition 100 online even if they left campus for the semester to go home or travel abroad.