Background:

The purpose of this assignment was for EDAE 639 students to develop a learner analysis tool to assess the students in the course we are developing. Specific activities included designing and analyzing survey questions to define our target audience, selecting a sample of audience members, conducting and analyzing the survey, and then reflecting on how the responses will affect our development of instruction.

My Audience: Students currently taking FSHN 350:

audience analysisAccording to Smith and Ragan, it is critical that instructional designers analyze the characteristics of learners, the “target audience” members who will be using the instruction, before they begin developing instructional materials. (1) This will help to ensure the instruction is user-centered and will meet their specific educational needs.

As discussed previously, evaluations of past student performance in FSHN 350 (based on tests and assignments) indicate a bimodal distribution—a good percentage of the students earn A grades, but a significant portion of the students earn D and F grades.

Prerequisites and prior learning. Specific prior learning is “the most important factor for a designer to consider about the audience.” (1) To ensure students are adequately prepared for the rigorous science material covered in FSHN 350, they must complete prerequisite coursework (Table 1) before registering.

Table 1:
Prerequisite Courses for FSHN 350 – Human Nutrition
Organic Chemistry:
CHEM 245 or 345, or equivalent
Human Physiology:
BMS 300, or equivalent
Prerequisites for these courses include general biology, general chemistry, and college algebra, each of which requires a high school equivalent (or AP)

Yet, it is likely that individual students still enter the course with different prior learning and at different levels of intellectual development, each of which may influence their respective capabilities to learn the material. Also, some current students in FSHN 350 have indicated that 1) they do not feel the course title, “Human Nutrition” and the description in the CSU course catalog (below) effectively convey the biochemistry emphasis of the course, and 2) the required prerequisites were insufficient for their success in the course, and that biochemistry should also be required—to prepare them for the metabolism sections of the course.

Objective: The purpose of this audience analysis was to begin to develop an academic profile for students currently enrolled in FSHN 350.

Survey: The survey below was written to assess indicators of development and prior knowledge—age, academic standing, GPA, and courses taken in related subjects, and to learn students’ subjective views of the course as described in the course catalog. All students currently enrolled in the course (n=134, across two sections) were sent an email (via RAM CT) inviting them to take the survey online. Thirty-seven (28%) students completed the survey, and their aggregated responses are below, listed in red with each question. The rationale for each question is also provided.

Summary of Audience Analysis:

Student development. Although the data were not too different from what I expected, this Audience Analysis survey did provide me a clearer picture of the respondents’ development and prior learning. Of the 37 students who responded, all were juniors or higher and over age 18; 86% were over age 21; 62% were seniors; and 11% had already earned a bachelor’s degree. Also, 78% of respondents had a 3.5 GPA or higher (37% had a 4.0, and 41% had a 3.5-3.9).

Prerequisites. Only two had not taken a course in organic chemistry and only four had not taken a course in physiology. All had taken at least one course in general biology, and all but one, a course in general chemistry—and most had taken two or more of each. Although not required, 35% of students had also taken at least one course in biochemistry and 59% a course in basic nutrition.

Conclusion – student profile. The students who responded are upper-level students, who, based on GPA, have performed very well in their previous courses. Nearly all of them have completed the prerequisite coursework for FSHN 350, and many have also had upper-level courses in related areas. Additionally, very few students who responded to the survey are doing poorly in FSHN 350. The average grade of all respondents was an 83%, with a range of 53-102%. This average and range are consistent with the grades for the class as a whole, based on RamCT.

Future directions:

Reflections on how to change, add, or delete questions. Nine of 37 students (24%) either disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that “the current course description accurately describes the course.” However, this question may have been poorly written, as many of the respondents’ explanations for why they agreed or disagreed was based on the same reasoning. Specifically, many agreed that the course description is accurate because the focus of the course is the metabolism of macro- and micronutrients, and many also disagreed with the statement because the focus is on metabolism of macro- and micronutrients (and not so much on the other topics listed in the course description). For a future survey, a more appropriate way to ask the question may be to divide it into multiple parts to ask students how well each topic area in the course description has been covered. This would provide more objective data about their opinions on each individual topic and would also be easier to analyze.

How the responses will affect design and development of the instruction. The primary focus of the course is, in fact, metabolism of macro- and micronutrients. Also, it is listed first in the course description for that reason. However, based on the same question discussed above, several respondents specifically commented that there has not been much focus on dietary recommendations, human health, dietary requirements for physical well-being, or evaluation of various diets. Some seem more content with this than others. Also, it seems that many students are not actually certain whether the course description is accurate or not, and a few commented that not enough of the course has been taught yet to know. Either way, most of the topics they mentioned are covered in the last half of the class. However, it is also true that these topics are not emphasized as much in the course as metabolism and nutritional science.

A way to improve student understanding of the extent to which topics are covered in the course may be to develop a “course roadmap” that is introduced at the beginning of the course and revisited regularly throughout the semester. For example, the course description and the course outline from the syllabus could be used to make a broad, visual map of the course content. This could provide students a bird’s eye view of where they are in the course material throughout the term.

An additional course improvement (based on respondents’ comments) would be to specifically introduce each concept in metabolism by briefly discussing macro-and micronutrients from a food and diet perspective. Also, providing more examples that connect nutrient metabolism to health may provide students the context they need related to their respective majors, most of which are in Health and Human Sciences.

References:

Smith, P. L. & Ragan, T. J. Instructional Design. (2005).