Date of Award

8-2009

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Agriculture and Extension Education

Major Professor

Carrie Stephens

Committee Members

Randol Waters, John Antun

Abstract

Online networking and virtual communities of practice have proven to be successful in providing teachers with feelings of professionalism and with improving teacher performance. For a virtual community of practice to be successful, members must be able to use certain computer and Internet technologies and they must be willing to both share information and to use the resource as source of information. This study builds on the body of knowledge in this area by specifically assessing the attitudes of nutrition education paraprofessionals towards the adoption and use of an online networking and virtual community of practice resource. The participants for this study were nutrition education paraprofessionals currently working with The University of Tennessee Extension as Program Assistants with the Tennessee Nutrition Consumer Education Program (TNCEP). The study had three objectives: (a) to assess the participants’ comfort level with various computer and Internet technologies, (b) to assess the participants’ attitudes towards motivations and barriers for sharing information, and (c) to assess the participants’ attitudes towards potential uses of a virtual community of practice and how the use of such a resource might affect efficiency and effectiveness of nutrition education program programming. An online survey instrument was used to collect data. Analysis of the results indicated that the study participants were comfortable using the computer and Internet technologies needed to participate in a virtual community of practice. Data also reflected a positive attitude towards both sharing information through a virtual community of practice and towards using the resource as a source of information.

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