Friedman to start online certificate programs targeting professionals

The Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy will launch three new online certificate programs beginning this January. Each consists of three 14-week courses offered consecutively and takes one year to complete.

The three online certificates, in Nutrition Science and Communications for Public Relations Professionals, Applied Positive Deviance and Delivery Science in International Nutrition, are a first for the school, according to Paul Giguere, senior director of academic initiatives for the Friedman School.

“This is the first time that we’ve had a full online program,” Giguere said.

Interest in online degree programs has been demonstrable in recent years, according to Giguere. “We’ve gotten lots of requests over the past few years of people asking about online programs,” he said.

Heather McMorrow, associate director for academic initiatives at the Friedman School, said the new online programs would allow Tufts to remain competitive with other schools, including Cornell University and Johns Hopkins University. “[The programs are] keeping us relevant to what other … schools are doing,” McMorrow said.

Giguere agreed. “We talked to people in the industry and the field,” he said. “There seems to be an interest in developing more continuing education opportunities in the Friedman School. This is one way we can go about doing this.”

Giguere said the certificate programs’ online nature will allow students outside of the Boston area to become involved in the program.

The three programs are targeted toward mid-career professionals who are looking to gain skills in the three focus areas, according to Giguere. “They’re looking to differentiate themselves in the field of nutrition,” he said.

The Nutrition Science and Communications for Public Relations Professionals certificate program will allow workers to obtain skills needed in the nutrition industry, according to McMorrow.

“Right now the certificate is for mid-career professionals; so people that have a foundation and a level of experience already may have found themselves in a role with their employer where they feel like they need to enhance their areas of nutrition communication without doing a full degree program,” McMorrow said.

The admissions standards for the online programs will be almost identical to the existing degree programs within the Friedman School, according to Giguere.

“It’s pretty rigorous,” Giguere said. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree, relevant professional experience, and they must have passed the Test of English as a Foreign Language, he said.

The school will cap admissions at 25 students for each certificate program in order to keep class sizes small, according to McMorrow.

“It ensures that there’s enough interaction between the faculty and the students,” McMorrow said.

McMorrow said the Friedman School will convene its admissions committee toward the end of December. Applications will be processed via rolling admission, so decisions could potentially be made up until classes’ Jan. 20 start date.

According to Giguere, the school does not plan to hire new faculty for the new programs.

“We’re using primarily faculty we already have,” Giguere said. “We’re bringing in people who have worked with us for a quite a while in some cases.”

The courses will be taught online, and Gigure said that it will be up to the professors to decide either to use PowerPoint slides linked to audio recordings of their lectures or live video streams of lectures.

Giguere said the online course programs will emphasize the same faculty and student interaction valued by the Friedman School’s offline courses, while expanding the reach of the School to a wider audience.

“This is something that extends our educational missions,” he said.

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