Online Course Focuses on Students’ Personal Health, Well-Being

By Cameron Carter

Luanne Norden

In the past year, as George Mason University has stepped up its drive to become a model well-being university, Professor Luanne Norden of the School of Recreation, Health, and Tourism has proven an active advocate. In her online section of HEAL 110: Personal Health, Norden strives to interest students in their own health, motivating them to improve their overall well-being and empowering them to thrive in their daily lives.

“This personal health course is really all about recognizing specific aspects of personal health and identifying ways to improve it,” Norden explains. “I’m leading my students to more information and resources to put them in charge of their own health. That’s my ultimate goal.”

To achieve this, she provides relevant content and projects such as a personal change plan. Students set a health goal to work on throughout the semester such as exercising three times a week, drinking more water, eating more fruits and vegetables, or getting more sleep. An optional health assessment provides students with private information to help set effective goals. At the midpoint and end of the semester, students report on their goals and their methods for achieving them.

“Students really like this project,” says Norden. “They like that they have to set a goal to improve their own health, and all along the way they’re gaining more knowledge. Ultimately, they like that the course is relevant to their personal interests.”

The course also offers a comprehensive look at well-being, with topics centering on mental and emotional health, fitness, nutrition and environmental health.

Happily, Norden finds many students extend their efforts past an academic semester. “Really this course is about presenting the concepts required to live an active life,” she says. “One of the discussion boards focuses on lifetime activities, so I introduce them to different options, like badminton, curling, even pickleball. Since some of these activities are new to them, they’re always interested to learn more.”

Norden ensures that the Blackboard-based course is easy to access and navigate.

“This is one of the best distance learning courses I have taken at Mason,” wrote one student on the course evaluation. “Professor Norden had the course requirements clearly laid out and the weekly schedules with the ‘looking ahead’ section really helped make it quick and easy to plan for the class. She put in as much effort to our learning experience as in-person classes.”

Norden also constantly updates and improves the class, adding or modifying sections, providing more information and incorporating student feedback.

“I tweak the course all the time,” she says, “which keeps it interesting for me too. I’ll even get a new idea from a conference or professional development session and say, ‘That’s a neat method, I want to do that instead.’”

Write to Colleen Kearney Rich at ckearney@gmu.edu

Originally posted here.