Dr. Brian Lindshield, assistant professor in the Department of Human Nutrition, has been teaching online courses at Kansas State University since 2009. Lindshield, who teaches Human Nutrition (HN 400) says he took the course on campus when he was a student at K-State and developed the curriculum for his own class through his experience, one of the many ways he works to provide a quality education to distance students.
Q: What do you like about teaching online?
A: I like interacting with online students. My online students are often non-traditional, so they bring more personal experience to the course. Also, lots of times they have had another career and have decided that they have a passion for nutrition that they would like to pursue. As a result, I often get more general nutrition interest questions that bring life to the course.
Q: What do you love about the subject you teach, and why did you decide to become a professor?
A: There are multiple influences that combined to lead to my love of nutrition. I was overweight as a child, and it wasn’t until I changed how I ate that I lost weight and reached a more appropriate body weight. Cancer runs in my family and I thought about working on developing cancer drugs, but I don’t like taking pills myself so this didn’t seem like a good fit. In the newspaper there used to be stories about recent results of nutrition on different chronic diseases including cancer. So I thought I might be able to research how to prevent chronic diseases through nutrition rather than treat them with pharmaceuticals. My mom was a family and consumer sciences teacher who taught nutrition and food classes, so she influenced me as well. Teaching kind of ran in my family, so being a professor allowed me to combine teaching with my research interest.
Q: What tips can you give students who are earning their degree online?
A: Set a schedule that works for you to devote to your studies and stick to it. Engage with your instructor and classmates; you’ll get so much more from the course than you would otherwise. Be realistic about the number of courses you can take a semester along with your other responsibilities.
Q: What are some strategies you use to cater to distance students through your teaching?
A: I try to make the distance and campus versions of the course as similar as I possibly can. By this I mean I want it to be a similar experience whether you take the course on campus or at a distance. In both courses I try to provide multiple ways for students to learn the material (text, hear, watch, etc.). For online students, I post class videos that some have indicated they like because it feels like they’re in class. Others have indicated they don’t watch the videos. They prefer to use the flexbook that I created to go along with the course. That’s fine as long as they’re learning the material. I also give distance students ranges of time that they can take their exam in, so that they have more flexibility on when they take their exams. I use Google Docs to make a collaborative study guide that I review twice to provide feedback on how the content meets my expectations in both the campus and distance courses. That way students have a better idea on what I’m expecting them to know. I focus on asynchronous communication in distance courses, so that it doesn’t put students who are in a much different time zone at a disadvantage because they’re missing chats, office hours, etc.