Can Distance Education Prepare Future Public Health Nutritionists? A Case Study

Barbara A. Laraia, Janice M. Dodds, Sara Benjamin, Sonya J. Jones, Elena T. Carbone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To assess student retention, readiness, support and outcomes among students completing the Professional Practice Program in Nutrition (PPPN). Design: Qualitative evaluation using semistructured, in-depth interviews conducted with PPPN graduates. Course grades, grade point averages, and comprehensive exam results compared 10 PPPN students from 2 cohorts and 72 residential students from 3 cohorts. Setting: The Professional Practice Program in Nutrition was a 3-year, pilot public health nutrition master's (MPH) degree curriculum using distance education (DE) strategies. Analysis: Ethnograph was used to assist with qualitative data analysis. Fisher exact test was used to compare quantitative outcomes. Results: Qualitative findings revealed that PPPN students were highly motivated, sought out the DE MPH and initially had great support from family and employers; however, support from employers waned over time. Although several challenges to continued enrollment confronted PPPN students, those who completed the MPH all advanced in the workplace. Course grades and grade point averages were similar between the 2 groups. Students in the PPPN were more likely than residential students to retake the comprehensive exam. Conclusions and Implications: The findings indicate that DE strategies were suitable to deliver an MPH curriculum in nutrition. The majority of PPPN graduates experienced job advancement and demonstrated leadership development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-38
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • distance education
  • learner outcomes
  • nutrition curriculum
  • public health nutrition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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