Teaching nutrition one spoonful at a time
Dairy Farmers of Canada’s Ontario regional office took its award-winning and independently delivered TeachNutrition programs and united them on a single platform, creating an environment that’s better for users, easier for admins to maintain and, as an added bonus, provides invaluable intel about how users are actually engaging with programs.
Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) is a national non-profit organization run by and for Canadian dairy farmers. DFC employs a highly trained group of registered dietitians who develop programs to help Canadians eat well and live well.
Under the banner “TeachNutrition,” DFC provides free programs and resources for educators and students from early childhood education to Grade 12, including ground-breaking training, curriculum-based programs, educational games and healthy living resources that are delivered both online and offline.
Programming benefits from the dietitians’ advanced training in nutrition science, education and research, as well as collaboration with government, health organizations, educators and researchers. The programs have won a number of awards and are considered to be on the cutting edge of nutrition education.
Ontario’s TeachNutrition programming gives students and teachers a lot to chew on—and it sure is tasty.
Each regional office develops its own TeachNutrition programming. Today, Ontario’s nine innovative and interactive programs are Good Beginnings, a free nutrition training program for Ontario’s childcare professionals; Power to Play, a superhero-themed program to encourage healthy eating and physical activity in students from Kindergarten to Grade 3; Power to Explore, Power4Bones, Digest Quest and Know Your Onions, which teach students in Grades 4 to 6 about healthy lifestyle choices and the body’s systems; Power 2B Me and Titanium Chef, which help students in Grades 7 and 8 make healthy eating choices; and My Meal Matrix, a mobile-friendly online tool to help high school students reflect on and improve their eating habits.
Complexity became a growing concern (pun intended) as older programs evolved and new programs were added, each with their own online components.
We had been DFC Ontario’s technology partner since 2007. Back then, there was only an Ontario-based TeachNutrition website, the Digest Quest game and Good Beginnings training program. By 2012, DFC Ontario had added two new online programs, Know Your Onions and Titanium Chef; redeveloped both the TeachNutrition website and Good Beginnings; added a scheduling application for programs that were delivered offline but required teachers to register for a two-hour in-person workshop; and was sending out e-newsletters. More games, websites and e-learning were on the horizon—including Power 2B Me (2013) and My Meal Matrix (2014).
One program existing in its own silo isn’t a problem. Eight silos (and counting) makes things a little challenging—for users and administrators alike.
Because the programs existed in their own online environments, they were disconnected. This fragmentation meant maintenance and support were costly. It prevented DFC from accessing overall user data, which meant missed opportunities for evidence-based usability improvements and more informed business decisions. And it affected communication. Opt-in lists for newsletters, program evaluations, and teacher contacts were complex and hard to manage. Without centralization, it was likely that teachers who were subscribed to a list were receiving repeat emails, affecting user satisfaction and retention and threatening compliance with Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL).
It was time to take a step back and think strategically. Could all the current and future DFC nutrition education elements be integrated on a single platform?
The strategy was to invest in back-end systems and create a single platform that would eventually integrate and centralize all online programs—a “brain” connecting and controlling all the online elements of all the Ontario programs, be they a game, an e-newsletter list, or an online training module.
The key to the platform—quite literally—was the TeachNutrition passport account. This centralized master database makes life easier for users. They can use the same login for each program, easily update their single profile on the system and opt-in to lists, such as newsletter subscriptions, in one place. The passport account also makes life easier for DFC’s administrators, who can manage profiles, subscriptions and registrations from a central database.
A teacher portal gives both visual and functional consistency. Teacher admin areas now have a similar layout and look, and there’s a centralized administration area for teachers to create and manage their class’s participation in programs. “Tool Tips” and “Teacher Trial”—features which run across different programs—now share functionality. Access control lists give teachers a seamless experience, allowing them to access everything on the platform that they have permission to view once they’re logged in.
Email lists are better managed. There is now two-way communication between the TeachNutrition database and MailChimp. Mailing lists can be easily maintained for both newsletters and program-specific communications. And DFC Ontario can demonstrate that it’s meeting CASL requirements.
A reporting portal provides invaluable access to centralized data on users. The portal ensures consistency in what and how information is collected and supports tracking (users, reach, regionality etc.) Because it’s centralized, the portal streamlines and manages shared reporting, consolidates analytics and enhances business intelligence for key decision making.
Today, this is what the TeachNutrition platform looks like.
Ontario educators can access DFC programs via in-person workshops (Power to Play, Power to Explore and Power 2B Me) or via online registration (Power4Bones, Know Your Onions, Titanium Chef, My Meal Matrix and Good Beginnings). DFC has two e-newsletters geared to elementary teachers and childcare providers. Each program and workshop also has their own communications to keep teachers informed of program updates, additional resources and evaluation and research opportunities related to the programs.
By integrating all these programs—in all their complexity—on a single platform with a passport database, teacher portal and subscription manager, DFC Ontario can reduce costs and increase efficiency, ensure consistent branding across products and make it easy for new provinces to join the platform. Users have an optimum experience—a single login, consistent functionality and profiles that are shared across the platform. The centralized data of the platform allows DFC’s registered dietitians to easily measure program success and report on program effectiveness.