Millennial Graduate Students’ Use Of Technology And Problem-Based Learning To Enhance Higher-Level Cognition In Health Promotion Program Planning

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June Matthews
Paula Dworatzek

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Abstract

As Millennials, current graduate students are very familiar with technology. To engage these students in their learning, we incorporated higher-level cognitive processes and knowledge dimensions into our course objectives. We also asked students to use a novel on-line tool to complete their major assignment. Using problem-based learning and a population health approach, students collaboratively developed a multi-strategy university peer nutrition education program. Over a three-year period, each class used the Online Health Program Planner, a freely-available, web-based, interactive collection of health promotion planning tools. This practical application of course content enabled students to develop and practice core competencies in public health. Students’ anonymous evaluations revealed that working with their colleagues on projects that would be used in a real-life setting “gave meaning to their work and motivated them to do their best”. They believed that they learned more from this assignment than traditional class projects. They were surprised by the complexity involved in developing a comprehensive program, and learned to think critically about outcomes. Some students wanted more guidance throughout the project, reflecting challenges students often face during problem- based learning; however, this also facilitated their learning at a higher level. These field experiences pushed students outside their comfort zones and promoted deeper learning than is possible through lectures alone. Other educators may find this type of project, in which experiential and problem-based learning were enhanced by comprehensive learning objectives and the use of a novel on-line tool, to be an appropriate transition from graduate school to professional practice. 

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