Introductory wellness courses are common in higher education. These courses are typically of a unidimensional approach, focusing on just the physical component of wellness. Some educators would argue that a multidimensional approach is a richer and more valuable learning experience. Furthermore, technology has played a larger role in wellness education. College wellness educators and curriculum designers need to determine the implications for both online and face-to-face instructional methods in their execution of teaching the holistic concept of wellness to their students.
The purpose of this quasi-experimental intervention study was to compare two teaching and delivery methods and subsequent self-assessment results of undergraduate students in an introductory wellness course at a small, Midwestern four-year college. More specifically, the study aimed to investigate the null statement: There are no differences in the learning responses and progress between online and residential student populations in a multidimensionally structured wellness course.
Of the 153 (112 online, 41 residential) subjects, 78 (45 online, 33 residential) completed both the pre-test and post-test of a customized wellness survey, which measured students’ levels of holistic wellness awareness, knowledge, and potential attitude shift (TestWell Holistic Lifestyle Questionnaire/BMS-WBCI).
Bivariate fit, chi-square, and one-way ANOVA tests were then ran by demographic parameters and both the pre- and post-test results for both the online and residential cohorts. Matched Pairs t-tests also were used to test whether there were significant mean differences between sets of paired data pre- and post-test.
The study identified differences between the online and residential students that can essentially impact the effectiveness in which multidimensional wellness courses are implemented.
The online students’ positive change scores were statistically significant for the environmental wellness dimension. Residential students scored high in variables related to physical activity, exercise, relationships, and work/life balance.
Course curriculum should remind online students of the benefits of investing in their health, the detriments of ignoring their well-being, and the overall importance of work/life balance. The curriculum should be developed with flexibility in mind. Different kinds of support and opportunities for students to relate the curriculum to their work contexts are important.
Residential students displayed traits characteristic of the personal fable and invulnerability. Course curriculum should remind these students that choices they make now will impact their future. Faculty should be mindful of students’ egocentrism when devising classroom instruction. They need to be intentional about raising student awareness of potential outcomes of risky behaviors.