I teach a 1 credit course on “The Vitamins” for our graduate students. Because the students come from different backgrounds (some without a nutrition degree), they need to have a common informational level prior to our real mission, which is for them to understand the nuances behind the dietary recommendations, how we set nutritional public policy, and to gain comfort with interpreting the “messy” real-life data that emerges from clinical, human subject, and whole animal studies. I felt we were spending too much class time covering “facts and functions” for each vitamin, instead of focusing on data interpretation. Moreover, most of that factual material they can just “google” anyway, but they do need it at the tip of their brain for problem-solving.
To address these issues, I developed a 10-20 minute pod-cast and accompanying powerpoint for each vitamin. It covers background factual material on structures, biochemical reactions, etc. Students view this at their leisure prior to class. Then at each class meeting, students work in pairs – which we rearrange each period – to talk through data that I project on a screen. The pairs then take turns sharing their interpretations and responses, and I inject directed questions to guide their discussion. My role becomes that of moderator and discussion facilitator. Students are encouraged to use their laptops/phones to research any information needed; most keep the podcast displayed. As grad students, they are motivated to review the podcast in advance. Moreover, once they saw how to use this material, advance viewing became their standard and they expressed high satisfaction with the course, because they were using their nutritional information to solve real-life problems – which is why they entered grad school.