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For West Virginia University faculty who primarily teach in-person classes, online learning comes with its own set of challenges.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced her traditionally face-to-face science of food preparation course online, professor Kristen Matak knew she’d need to creatively engage her students. Kristen Matak

“I wanted them to be engaged even though they’re not on campus. I wanted a great way to get the students to interact with each other even though they’re not interacting in a physical classroom,” she explained.

Matak, a professor of human nutrition and foods in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, researched effective teaching methods for asynchronous learning but often felt like something was missing.

The typical online format involves an assignment, posting answers to questions in a discussion board and commenting on other students’ answers - something she said students find time consuming and a forced engagement.

Instead, she challenged each student to create a video public service announcement about a food safety topic.

The one food safety rule students were not allowed to choose was hand washing, for the simple fact that it has been talked about so much.
“I wanted this to be a timeless type of assignment. If they talk about hand washing now, it’s going to go back to COVID-19. COVID-19 is consuming everybody’s everything right now, so I wanted to take it away from that. I didn’t want that to be the theme,” Matak explained.

The assignment did more than help the students learn and engage. The videos are informative, funny, creative, impressive and available on YouTube.

“I’ve been encouraging them to go through and just watch them because some of them are really funny,” Matak said.

Senior human nutrition and foods major Timothy Rant watched all of the videos just for entertainment.

“There were some really good ones. One of them was a sketch about the temperature danger zone; it was super creative,” he said. “The videos were definitely great for engagement. They were also great for engaging with the material instead of just memorizing facts and taking notes. It was actually doing something that was applicable.”

Read More: Davis College students create food safety public service announcements