Adapting Literature Critique Engagement Activities for Online Learning Due to COVID-19: Use of Online Learning Groups to Promote Scientific Literacy Capabilities in Undergraduate Nutrition Education

David M. Beauchamp, Genevieve Newton, Jennifer M. Monk


Maintaining scientific literacy (SL) skill development in undergraduate science education while transitioning courses from the in-person to online learning environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic requires adaptation of some teaching practices. This study assessed the effectiveness of small online learning groups as the active engagement strategy (replacing in-person breakout groups) to promote SL skill development in fourth year undergraduate nutritional science students in the online learning environment (Fall 2020 semester). As a secondary outcome, SL skill development in the online learning environment (Fall 2020, n=178) was compared to that of the in-person course format (Fall 2019, n=144). Students were surveyed at the start and end of the semester to assess their i) scientific literature comprehension, ii) SL skill perceptions, and iii) practical SL skills. The use of online learning groups contributed to improvements in both literature comprehension and SL skill perceptions (P<0.05), however, practical SL skills remained unchanged (P>0.05). There was no difference in the magnitude of improvement in students’ SL skill perceptions or their practical SL skills between course formats (P>0.05). The ability to think critically about the scientific literature was increased in both course formats, with greater improvements observed in the online course format (P=0.02). Additionally, only students in the online course format had improved comprehension of scientific methods versus the in-person format (P=0.05). Collectively, these data demonstrate that the adaptations of an in-person course to an online learning environment using small online learning groups can similarly promote the development of SL in undergraduate nutrition education. 

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Copyright (c) 2021 David M Beauchamp, Genevieve Newton, Jennifer M Monk

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International Journal of Higher Education
ISSN 1927-6044 (Print) ISSN 1927-6052 (Online) Email:

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