This qualitative explorative study explored dietetic employers' perceptions, attitudes, and policies regarding hiring of online dietetic graduates; how their perceptions were formed; and factors contributing to their development. Higher educational institutions and learners have embraced online education, evidenced by increased online program offerings and increased enrollment. A number of studies have examined the quality of online education and learner satisfaction, positioning quality of online education as similar and/or superior to face-to-face education. Nevertheless, many employers still associate quality of education with a classroom setting, and discriminate against hiring graduates of online education. This study focused on 18 employers spanning all areas of dietetics. The results of semistructured face-to-face interviews indicated split results, reflecting both positive and negative perceptions and attitudes toward online dietetic education. The pro-online dietetic education participants saw no differences between the knowledge, competencies, and skills of online dietetic graduates versus face-to-face dietetic graduates when hiring for their positions. Pro-online dietetics employers attributed their positive perceptions and attitude to their familiarity and positive experiences with online education. In contrast, the anti-online employers associated quality of education with face-to-face education, and attributed their negative perceptions and attitudes about online education to their lack of knowledge of and negative experiences with online education. Overall, the results of this study revealed that some of the employers of dietetic graduates displayed negative perceptions and attitudes toward online graduates, while others displayed positive perceptions and attitudes. The demand for dietetic professionals is growing, as online education is becoming a viable format of education. Thus, implication of this study for the stakeholders of the dietetics profession is to reduce these employers' biases. The learners must demonstrate their knowledge, competencies, and skills to their future employers whenever they can. Higher educational institutions must form partnerships with employers of online dietetics graduates and assure them of the knowledge, competencies, and skills of their online graduates. Employers of online dietetic graduates also have a responsibility to keep abreast of technology and trends, and to support higher educational institutions in training the future dietetic workforce.
|Subjects||Management; Health education; Educational technology|
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