ISTE Standards for Coaching

Sensory sensitivity in the digital age: How can instructional technology coaches assist?

Imagine a classroom setting where a student feels overwhelmed by an environment saturated with bright lights, loud and unexpected noises, and constant peer distractions. It would be quite difficult to concentrate and learning could be hindered. While some students have been diagnosed with conditions that can cause sensory processing disorder, such as Autism, there are others who experience sensory overload, but may fall under the radar for various reasons, including lack of awareness or understanding. Students who experience sensory overload may include those with generalized anxiety disorder, ADD/ADHD, PTSD, and more ( 

Defining sensory processing disorder and sensory overload:

I am interested in exploring how assistive technology, modifications to digital technology, and overall structuring of the digital learning environment can support students with sensory hypersensitivities. Students experiencing sensory input difficulties for varying reasons can benefit from classroom experiences that are designed to minimize sensory overload. 

My question for this blog post is: What factors should be considered when selecting digital tools to support students who experience sensory hypersensitivities? 

This question aligns with ISTE Standard 3b – “Coaches partner with educators to identify digital learning content that is culturally relevant, developmentally appropriate and aligned to content standards” (ISTE). An important distinction within this ISTE standard is that the term developmentally appropriate includes being ability appropriate for students ( 

Instructional technology coaches possess the knowledge and skills to recommend digital strategies and tools for teachers to utilize in their classrooms to support students with sensory sensitivities. Coaches can support teachers by increasing awareness of how certain digital tools can support students with sensory sensitivities. They can also model how to use computers to minimize sensory overload. 

Classroom support for sensory hypersensitivity: 

An article titled “Sensory sensitive technology tools” states that use of technology in classrooms can negatively impact learning for students who experience sensory issues, including sensory input and processing disorders. The author suggests that adaptive and assistive technologies should be evaluated and implemented for student use to support the individual needs of students impacted by sensory-related disorders. The author suggests the following recommendations to support students with sensory overload: 

  • Adaptations for supporting sight-related sensory issues should include: 
    • the type of hardware utilized, such as a larger monitor vs. a smaller tablet device; 
    • the visual experience can be improved by adjusting the brightness and contrast, font color, size, and style. 
    • If reading from a screen is challenging, teachers should provide students with hard copies of the learning materials. 
  • Adaptations for supporting hearing hearing-related sensory issues include: 
    • providing headphones with volume control 
    • having students mute the volume if that component of the learning is not necessary 
  • Adaptations for supporting writing-related sensory issues: 
    • The feel of the writing instrument and the sound of the writing action may be an issue for some students. 
    • The author recommends that teachers consider having students use graphic organizers to minimize the amount of writing. Examples of digital graphic organizers are found here.  Additionally, the following video provides a tutorial of developing a digital graphic organizer. 

Further, an article published by Hauser (2020) provides the following additional considerations for supporting sensory-sensitive students studying in an online environment : 

  • Take a break from screen time every 15-20 minutes. 
  • Position the computer to maximize natural light and minimize glare. 
  • If a student experiences visual difficulties alternating between a computer screen and a hard copy document, the authors suggests to insert a red or yellow piece of paper behind the document for easier viewing. 

“For children with sensory processing difficulties and/or motor delays, there may be additional challenges in participating in Zoom classes and remote group learning. Some may have difficulty sustaining their attention settling their body down to sit in front of a screen, managing the visual challenges of a screen, engaging socially or transitioning from a desired task to an academic one.”

(Hauser, 2020)

Additionally, the National Institutes of Health suggests the following assistive devices for students with sensory difficulties (

  • Closed captioning
  • Voice recognition programs
  • Screen readers
  • Screen enlargement software

While I have probably only scratched the surface on recommendations that instructional technology coaches can make to minimize digital sensory hypersensitivity in the classroom setting, it is apparent to me that a wealth of resources exist to pass along to teachers to help support their students. A thorough assessment of the digital aspects of the classroom environment, including computer use/settings, digital tool selection, and implementation of adaptive technology can reduce the effects of sensory hypersensitivity in the learning process. 


Author unknown. What is sensory overload?

Author unknown. DAP: Defining developmentally appropriate practice. National Association for the Education of Young Children. 

Bielefeld, K. (2017). Sensory series part 3: Sensory sensitive technology tools. Minio Educator.

Hauser, J. (2020). Sensory and motor strategies to support online learning. Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents.

International Society for Technology in Education.

ISTE Standard 3: Collaborator ISTE Standards for Coaching

How can instructional technology coaching help motivate educators to explore unfamiliar digital tools? Could motivational interviewing be key?

Educators who experienced the abrupt switch to emergency remote learning across the world during the COVID-19 pandemic were inundated with a plethora of resources, recommendations, and offers of assistance on ways to pivot their classrooms online. Suddenly, concepts such as Zoom breakout rooms, Poll Everywhere, and asynchronous discussion boards became part of the educators’ lexicon. Most instructors teaching during this time were required to swiftly revamp their approach to teaching in significant ways. 

Cahapay (2020) describes considerations for the reimagined virtual classroom in rethinking the structure of the course, dialogue of participants, and student autonomy when designing an online learning environment. Adjustments to these components of teaching and learning require educators to think through the integration of various instructional technologies as they design their virtual classroom spaces. Considerations for course structure, dialogue, and student autonomy when transitioning to an online classroom space include the following: 


  • Restructuring a course to an online environment includes considerations for how and what type of assessments will be conducted. Will exams be proctored or unproctored, and will they be open-note or closed-note? If exams are closed-note, will proctoring software be utilized? If not, will the instructor proctor the exam during a synchronous session? 
  • How will the need for social connectedness and collaboration be addressed when developing assignments? How is group work evaluated in an online environment? Will the instructor assign groups and have students use shared documents, such as Google docs, to compile their work in a format where the instructor can evaluate each student’s contributions? 
  • Will class sessions be held synchronously, asynchronously, or will a combination of both formats be utilized? 
  • What will be the structure of online class sessions? What format will be used to engage students and keep their attention? Will breakout rooms be used? If so, what will be accomplished during those sessions? 


  • Which digital tools will students use to communicate with each other and with their instructor? 
  • How will synchronous online breakout sessions compare to asynchronous discussion boards for increasing social connectedness among students? 
  • How will students connect with their instructor to ask questions and seek additional support outside of class sessions? 
  • Will there be considerations for the type of digital tools used for students who prefer to communicate either synchronously or asynchronously due to personal schedules, personality types, learning preferences, disabilities, etc?  


  • How will the course be structured to support learner autonomy or “the learner’s ability to take charge of his/her own learning?” (Smith, 2019)
  • Will flexible due dates be offered? 
  • Will voice and choice be valued in determining what format students use to show competence in mastery of learning objectives? 

These considerations for designing a virtual classroom space are by no means exhaustive, but this short list provides insights on the important work of instructional technology coaches in providing expertise and support for creating and maintaining an online or hybrid learning environment. As we anticipate  the upcoming school year, there is hope that we will be transitioning back to face to face teaching and learning. However, educators should not abandon their efforts to incorporate digital technology into their courses even if they are anticipating a return to a brick and mortar environment.

It is evident to me that students of all ages benefit from teachers who are motivated to keep current on digital instructional practices. Teachers who model proficient use of digital technology in their pedagogical practices and in how they structure students’ classroom experiences are modeling use of information and communication technologies and are helping students to develop digital literacy skills, which are two important 21st century skills needed to compete in the digital age. 

Considering the importance for educators to be lifelong learners in advancing their knowledge and skills in the area of digital technology, I am seeking to explore the following question:  

Which coaching techniques are effective in facilitating motivation in educators, which may spur investigation of unfamiliar digital instructional tools?

This question aligns with ISTE Coaching Standard 3 Collaborator:

  • Coaches establish productive relationships with educators in order to improve instructional practice and learning outcomes. 
  • 3a: Coaches establish trusting and respectful coaching relationships that encourage educators to explore new instructional strategies (ISTE). 

I decided to focus on motivation because for many educators, the idea of getting up to speed on the seemingly endless instructional technology tools available may seem too great of a pursuit to initiate. Some educators may believe their lesson plans, course structure, and pedagogy do not need updating. This is where instructional technology coaches play a key role in the support of other educators. They have the awareness, knowledge, and skills regarding the need for digital technology in present day classrooms, and can work with teachers individually to explore digital tools to improve their instructional practices and student learning outcomes. But it is essential that instructional technology coaches help teachers understand what motivates them to improve their teaching practices. What motivates one teacher may vary greatly from the next. Following are summaries of a few studies which provide insights on aspects of teacher motivation in increasing use of instructional technology: 

A study titled “Fostering powerful use of technology through instructional coaching” aimed to “improve educational equity and enhance student learning by supporting teachers with classroom coaching to better leverage technology in powerful and meaningful ways.” Grant funding was used to place full-time instructional technology coaches across 5 states in 50 schools with greater than 60% of students qualifying for free or reduced meals. Some of the key findings from the study are as follows: 

  • Data from this study show that after one year of coaching support, teachers increased use of technology “…to support what they are teaching as well as how they are teaching it.” 
  • More than 80% of teachers who participated in the study indicated that the coaching provided enhanced their students’ ability to utilize appropriate digital tools, and the implementation of technology in their classrooms increased “student collaboration, creativity, communication, critical thinking, and agency.” 
  • One of the five key areas of professional development in this research project was active learning, which was defined by the authors as “opportunities that directly engage teachers in designing and/or trying teaching strategies.” 
  • Related to increasing motivation among educators, I believe the following aspects of this coaching framework would motivate teachers to investigate and utilize unfamiliar digital tools: 
    • Trust was a focus of the coach/coachee relationships, and it was understood that teachers wouldn’t be penalized or evaluated for trying something new that didn’t work. 
    • Coaching was initiated as a partnership, and coaches were viewed as thought partners.
    • Coaching was personalized to the needs, goals, and interests of the instructor. 
  • The authors concluded by stating that the educators involved in the study believe that effective instructional technology coaching helps to “close the digital divide” and may have a positive impact on student achievement (Bakhshaei, et al, 2018).

Further, Sharma and Srivastava (2019) explored “teachers’ motivation to adopt technology in higher education.”  After surveying a random sampling of teachers on considerations for integrating technology into their work, the researchers concluded that personal values, beliefs about self-efficacy, social influence, and ease of use influenced motivation to incorporate technology into teaching practices. 

It is well documented that instructional coaches need to build a relationship of trust, openness and rapport before engaging in instructional coaching work. Once a solid foundation is developed, instructional coaches should consider utilizing techniques from motivational interviewing to help increase teacher motivation for change. Motivational interviewing is a collaborative counseling framework which focuses on supporting self-efficacy, resolving ambivalence, and increasing motivation for change ( Motivational interviewing is commonly used with patients and clients in healthcare settings, but this counseling framework could also be impactful if used in instructional coaching practices.  

One commonly used tool in motivational interviewing is a cost-benefit analysis. An instructional technology coach can use this tool to discuss the benefits and costs (or pros and cons) of making or not making changes (i.e. exploring/incorporating unfamiliar digital tools). The coach would focus on reasons for making changes and the teacher would explore resolving their ambivalence to change. 


Another counseling technique used in motivational interviewing is Change Rulers, which measure on a scale of 0-10 confidence, importance, and readiness to make certain changes. 


Lyons et al. (2017) conducted a study on motivational interviewing skills training with instructional coaches. Results of the study showed that instructional coaches were using conversational techniques that were not consistent with motivational interviewing, including questioning and “attempts to persuade without permission.” The researchers concluded by stating that the techniques relied upon by the instructional coaches interviewed were associated with decreased self-efficacy and did not increase motivation for change. 

Motivational interviewing techniques should be considered as additions to the instructional technology coach’s toolbox to use in their work with educators to explore motivation to investigate unfamiliar digital instructional tools. A cost-benefit analysis can be used to explore reasons for change, and people often realize that there are more benefits to making changes than not. A change ruler can be quite effective in increasing confidence or understanding the importance of making a change. Both tools are easy to make and use impromptu with just a piece of paper and a pen, but can have lasting impact on increasing motivation for change. An educator’s level of motivation to explore, utilize, and implement new digital technology in their teaching practices is essential to model 21st century skills to their students and to keep current in a digital age.    


Author unknown. (2016). 21st century skills.

Author unknown. Understanding motivational interviewing. (2019).

Bakhshaei, M., Hardy, A., Francisco, A., Noakes, S., and Fusco, J. (2018). Fostering powerful use of technology through instructional coaching.

Cahapay, M. (2020). A reconceptualization of learning space as schools reopen amid and after COVID-19 pandemic. Asian Journal of Distance Education, 15(1), 269-276. 

International Society for Technology in Education. (2021). 

Lyons, M.D.,Jones, S.J., Smith, B.J., McQuillin, S.D., Richardson, G., Reid, E., McClellan, A. (2017). Motivation coach training for instructional coaches: A pilot study of motivational interviewing skills training. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 25(5), 548-565. 

Sharma, L., Srivastava, M. (2019). Teachers’ motivation to adopt technology in higher education. Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, DOI:10.1108/JARHE-07-2018-0156

Sheldon, S. (2019). Learner autonomy. Going it alone.

ISTE Standards for Coaching

Integrating Online Peer Review Tools in Higher Education to Reinforce Digital Citizenship Skills

Imagine the work environment of a clinical dietitian prior to organizational digitalization. Communications with patients were initiated in person and on the phone. Medical charting was completed by hand and stored in hard copy files. Interdisciplinary communications were accomplished in conference rooms or conversing at the nurse’s station. Many of the digital communication tools we rely on in the 21st century were largely unavailable for use in the dietetics work environment in the 20th century, and dietetics education, in turn, mimicked the clinical landscape. Dietetics students polished their professional skills by giving oral presentations, conducting in-person mock counseling sessions, and creating pamphlets or handouts showing their skills in nutrition education. 

With exploding advancements in digital technology integration in professional work environments, it is essential that dietetics students develop 21st century skills for success in today’s digital world. Due to increased utilization of remote learning in higher education, college students have the opportunity to practice several 21st century skills that pertain to use of digital technology. 

 The Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction describes the following 21st century leadership skills in their Career and Technical Education (CTE) performance indicators (OSPI): 

  • Communicate clearly  – utilize multiple media and technologies, and know how to judge their effectiveness a priori as well as assess their impact
  • Collaborate with others – demonstrate ability to work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams
  • Assess and evaluate information – evaluate information critically and competently 
  • Interact effectively with others – conduct themselves in a professional, respectful manner 
  • Guide and lead others – demonstrate integrity and ethical behavior in using influence and power

These 21st century skills from the Washington State CTE curriculum reflect components of digital citizenship and should be reinforced in curricula at the college level, including in dietetics education courses.  

What is digital citizenship? 

“Digital citizenship encompasses digital literacy, ethics, etiquette, online safety, norms, rights, culture, and more (virtual library info).

Digital etiquette is an important component of digital citizenship and 21st century skill-building. Since so much of our communications in the digital age are through digital technology, it is imperative that dietetics students have opportunities to practice digital etiquette. Components of digital etiquette include: 

  • Interactions should be polite, respectful and kind. 
  • Written communications should be professional, including use of proper grammar, and clear and concise information provided. 
  • Information exchanges should avoid use of humor and sarcasm, as they are difficult to interpret digitally.  
  • Using language that is not harsh or offensive. 
  • Treat others the same way you would treat them in person.

(Lynch, 2017;;


ISTE Standard for Educators: Citizen

The question I am exploring pertains to the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) Standards for Educators 3: Citizen:

“Educators inspire students to positively contribute and responsibly participate in the digital world,” and 3a: “Create experiences for learners to make positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behavior online that build relationships and community” (ISTE). 

How can digital citizenship skills be reinforced through use of digital peer review tools? 

Integration of peer assessment in higher education can offer benefits to both the reviewer and the reviewee. As a formative assessment tool, students receive low stakes feedback from peer reviewers before submitting an assignment for summative feedback. The reviewee, on the other hand, has the opportunity to critically evaluate the work of their peers, which can broaden their knowledge in course content, but also provides opportunities to demonstrate digital citizenship. 

A study conducted by Roman et al. (2020) explored the integration of online peer review tools in distance education courses. The authors state that peer formative feedback is a useful tool as it communicates information “…to the learner that is intended to modify his or her thinking or behavior for the purpose of improving learning.” Further, the authors state that for online peer formative feedback to be successful, students need to practice “giving and receiving feedback” prior to performing these tasks. The authors conclude by stating that online peer review tools, when successfully implemented, can enhance authentic learning in digital environments by providing “…the opportunity for students to engage in… meaningful dialogue and collaboration around course content.”  

PeerGrade Peer Feedback Tool 

The peer review tool I am interested in exploring is PeerGrade, which is one of over 40 digital tools available for students to use to provide feedback in the form of a peer review assessment (Roman et al., 2020). Below are the key features of this digital peer review tool: 

  • Instructors develop assessment rubrics, which can be structured to promote digital citizenship skills. 
  • There are three stages in the assignment process. 
    • Step 1: Students upload their assignment rough drafts (i.e. the assignment hand-in stage) by a predetermined due date. 
    • Step 2: Students are assigned one or more anonymous peer assignments to review based on the rubric developed by their instructor. (Note: I would like to learn more about how rubrics are created in this digital tool. At first glance, it appears to offer options that are similar to what is available in a Google form.) 
    • Step 3: Students access and review feedback provided during the peer review process. During this stage, students can indicate that the peer feedback received was either helpful (with a thumbs up), or they can indicate disagreement with the peer feedback by flagging one or more ratings 
    • If any peer feedback is flagged, the instructor will be prompted to review any discrepancies to determine how that part of the rough draft should be graded. 
  • The flagged feedback can provide rich learning opportunities on the subject of digital citizenship, especially if the feedback is unprofessional, including disrespectful, unkind, unclear, and/or vague/unhelpful.  
  • The recipient of the peer review can also rate their reviewer on their feedback by clicking on categories, such as kindness, specificity, and constructivity. 
  • I think setting up the rubric to promote digital citizenship is important, but there will also be teachable moments to continue reinforcing digital citizenship through the feedback provided back to the reviewer from the reviewee. 

This Youtube video provides an overview of PeerGrade from both the student and instructor interfaces:

Below is a brief summary of some the pros and cons of using this tool from the following websites:;;


  • Customizable tool
  • A library of rubrics is provided. 
  • Students receive feedback from their peers, but are also able to provide feedback on the work of the reviewer 
  • Saves teachers time by having students complete formative assessments. 
  • Enables students to broaden their knowledge of course content by reviewing their peers’ work 


  • It is specifically designed for higher education, and may not be appropriate for use in K-12 classrooms. 

PeerGrade can be integrated into Learning Management Systems, such as Canvas. Here is a video that describes the integration:

Digital peer review can accomplish so much more than peer editing. Not only does this process expand students’ knowledge and perspectives in course content, it also provides rich learning and practice in digital citizenship. Opportunities to receive instructor feedback on digital citizenship, including digital etiquette, will likely enhance the professionalism and 21st century skills needed for success in the workforce. 


Author unknown. Digital citizenship.

Author unknown. Digital citizenship & ethics.

Author unknown. EdTech Impact.

Digital citizenship.

O’Hear, S. (2016). Peergrade lets students grade each other’s assignments. TechCrunch.

International Society for Technology in Education.

Lynch, M. (2017). Modeling digital citizenship in the classroom. The Edvocate.

Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Washington Career and Technical Education 21st Century Leadership Skills.

Roman, T., Callison, M., Myers, R.D., and Berry, A.H. (2020). Facilitating authentic learning experiences in distance education: Embedding research-based practices into an online peer feedback tool. TechTrends. 64, 591-605.   

Myra, D. PeerGrade.oi – A time saver for peer reviews. Commonsense Education.

ISTE Standards for Coaching

How Does Canvas Learning Management System Support Learner Variability?

Learning Management Systems (LMS) are a valuable tool to support courses in higher education, and are utilized to support face-to-face, hybrid, and fully online instruction. As a college instructor, I have integrated Canvas into my courses for many years now, but my increased reliance on this platform has become evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. With no face-to-face interactions, it became essential to take a deep dive into the various features offered by this LMS in an effort to create an inviting, straight-forward and navigable platform to support learner variability. 

My quest to evaluate how Canvas supports learner variability is based on the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standard 5 For Educators, with a focus on Standard 5a: 

Educators design authentic, learner-driven activities and environments that recognize and accommodate learner variability.

5a. Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.

What is learner variability? 

Learner variability is a term used to describe students who are struggling as well as students who are succeeding. Learner variability encompasses many student characteristics, including learning difficulties, giftedness,variations in processing information, socio-economics, language abilities, and socio-emotional health. Learner variability can be supported when the instructor differentiates instruction, such as by allowing extra time for a student to complete a quiz or an assignment, individualization in the way students are assessed to demonstrate competency, and structuring the learning environment in a way that is suited to support success of all students (Pape; Vuchic & Pape, 2018).  

“One reason we are stuck in outdated classrooms is that too many school systems are frozen in sameness – the same books, the same lessons, the same pace, the same treatment of each learner. Yet, if there is one takeaway from the burgeoning learning sciences research, it is that no two of us learn in exactly the same way” (Pape).  

Personalizing learning addresses learner variability and considers the whole person as a student and accepts the notion that a one size fits all approach to learning is not a good recipe for success (Vuchic & Pape, 2018). Further, The American Disabilities Act requires that all learning environments, including digital spaces, are designed to accommodate all types of learners, including those with disabilities (  

With the increased integration of digital technology into higher education courses, professors have many tools at their fingertips that can be used to support learner variability. My research focuses on the tools that Canvas provides to support divergent learners and how this learning management system aligns with the Universal Design for Learning Framework. 

What features does Canvas offer to support learner variability? 

Course layout/navigation: (

  • Modules can be used to keep readings, lecture materials, assignments, quizzes and other learner support materials housed by topic or date range. Modules enhance the navigation of Canvas, enabling students to locate all materials they will need within a particular time frame, such as by implementing weekly learning modules. It is recommended to clearly label modules as well as each document contained with the modules for enhanced usability. 
  • Canvas includes a list of default template course links that may not be used by an instructor. Instructors should hide links that are not relevant to a particular course to enhance platform usability and navigation.  

Adjustable timeframes, due dates and assignments: (; Hainline, 2016)

  • Canvas offers easy adjustments for variable time frames and due dates on quizzes and assignments. Extra time, extended due dates, and multiple attempts can be programmed into the platform to support students who may need accommodations.
  • Additionally, personalization of assignments can be supported by designating specific assignments to be completed by certain students. 

Accessibility (; Gorannson, 2019): 

  • Canvas includes the Rich content editor feature, which “supports multiple accessibility features for easy creation of accessibility content,” including closed captioning and “alt text when embedding external images” (
  •  When the Chat Tool function is accessed, students can use the audio feature that is built into the tool. 
  • Font size: The Rem sizing feature enables the reader to increase the font size on Canvas due to its Zoom feature. A default font size can also be set for Canvas if a pre-established font size has been selected in the students’ browser. 
  • High contrast user interface: This feature provide high color contrast of tabs and text. 
  • Canvas works in conjunction with several screen reader/browser combinations to enable students to either hear text content audibly or to access content in Braille. 
  • Canvas has an accessibility checker option that provides an evaluation of how well the instructor sets up their site for overall accessibility. It also provides tips on how to improve the site. 

Asynchronous learning experiences (Olad, 2020; 

  • There are many benefits to student learning through asynchronous tools. Students have some flexibility to decide when they will work on a project or contribute their ideas into a group forum. 
  • Some students may need to complete academic work early in the morning or over the weekend. Or if a personal issue surfaces that could get in the way of completing a synchronous assignment with a limited time frame, offering a broader time frame to complete asynchronous tasks will support learner variability in terms of personal schedules and multiple demands on students’ time. 
  • Additionally, some students who have shy, reserved personalities may be better able to express their ideas and knowledge in asynchronous learning formats. 
  • Some students may need more time to process content before applying it to an assignment. Asynchronous learning may be a relief to students who want to think through new content or take a deeper dive into newly-presented information before contributing their thoughts and ideas. 
  • Canvas offers several asynchronous learning tools, including: 
    • Discussion board 
    • Collaborations, which can connect with Google docs for group work
    • Piazza, a forum students can utilize to ask anonymous questions that they may not want to ask in a synchronous class session
    • Groups, which connects students to work together asynchronously in smaller groups

Universal Design for Learning Framework

When an instructor thinks through their learning management system course design for learner variability, they are aligning their focus with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework.   “UDL aims to change the design of the environment rather than to change the learner. When environments are intentionally designed to reduce barriers, all learners can engage in rigorous, meaningful learning” ( This document provides examples of how an instructor can structure their Canvas platform to reflect UDL principles. Additionally, the graphic below provides examples of how to structure a course to represent UDL principles. 


In conclusion, my deep dive into Canvas as a learning management system has revealed tremendous thought and effort put forth in the design and functionality of this platform to support learner variability. 


Author unknown. Make your Canvas course accessible to all learners. Teaching tools. 

Author unknown. (2021). Inclusive use of Canvas features and apps. Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning.

Author unknown. The UDL guidelines. 

Goransson, D. (2019). What is a screen reader? Axess lab.

Hainline, A. (2016). Differentiating assignments (k-12) in Canvas: Helping all learners be successful. Canvas.

Olad, A. (2020). Accessibility awareness: Quick steps for enabling accessibility in your Canvas course. 

Pape, B. Learner variability is the rule, not the exception. Digital Promise

Vuchic, V, Pape, B. 2018. Understanding learner variability to personalize learning.

ISTE Standards for Coaching

Simulation learning in dietetics education: What options are available?

As a dietetics educator, I am keenly aware that securing clinical nutrition rotations for dietetics interns is the most difficult aspect of scheduling supervised practice experiences. A few reasons why securing clinical nutrition rotations can prove to be difficult include local competition with other programs, a limited number of preceptors available, lack of facilities in proximity to program sites, and a limited number of overall placement opportunities due to the amount of experiential learning time required. 

Clinical nutrition rotations can be scheduled with a variety of healthcare organizations, including hospitals, clinics, renal dialysis centers, eating disorder clinics, and long-term care centers. Of utmost importance, however, is providing opportunities for dietetic interns to fulfill the requisite learning competencies as mandated by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). Dietetic internship programs must offer learning experiences that allow interns to meet a variety of clinical nutrition competencies. Some examples of clinical nutrition competencies are as follows: 

  • CRDN 1.6: Incorporate critical thinking skills in overall practice. 
  • CRDN 2.4: Function as a member of inter-professional teams.
  • CRDN 3.1: Perform the Nutrition Care Process and use standardized nutrition language for individuals, groups and populations of differing ages and health status, in a variety of settings. 
  • CRDN 3.6: Use effective education and counseling skills to facilitate behavior change. 
  • CRDN 4.9: Explain the process for coding and billing for nutrition and dietetics services to obtain reimbursement from public or private payers, fee for service and value-based payment systems (ACEND).  

An additional layer of complexity in securing clinical nutrition rotations this past academic year was the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. While some hospitals and clinics chose to continue taking our interns in person, others requested partial or fully virtual rotations, while others decided to opt out due to difficulties transitioning to online learning. Several of our hybrid and fully online sites provided opportunities for interns to observe and engage in telehealth sessions with clients. 

Currently, we are a few weeks away from our first cohort of dietetic interns completing our inaugural program year. Though I am quite satisfied with the quality and variety of learning experiences our interns have had this year, I want to investigate how clinical nutrition education can be provided to dietetic interns through use of simulation learning. 

Specifically, my question for this module is: How can dietetics educators incorporate innovative clinical nutrition simulation learning experiences into their dietetic internship curriculum to improve student outcomes while advancing their technological skills? 

My question aligns with the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) Standard 1 Learner: “Educators continually improve their practice by learning from and with others and exploring proven and promising practices that leverage technology to improve student learning. Educators (ISTE). 

In this blog post, I will be focusing on ISTE Standard 1a: 

“Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness” (ISTE). 

Simulation learning: an advanced educational approach in dietetics education

According to Levett-Jones and Lapkin (2014), simulation learning is: “A technique used to replace or amplify real experiences with guided experiences that evoke or replace substantial aspects of the real world in a fully interactive manner. Simulation isn’t a technology, but rather a mode of learning meant to replicate clinical experiences as closely as possible.” Further, Davis (2015) states that “simulation education serves as a bridge between classroom learning and real-life clinical experience.” 

Simulation learning and corresponding curriculum theory 

According to Cooper (2018), simulation learning stems from Transformative Learning Theory, “which suggests that either real or simulated experiences serve as catalysts for learning. Students take the knowledge they already possess and put it into practice in realistic scenarios.” 

Simulation learning is also rooted in Experiential Learning Theory, which focuses on learning by engaging in direct experiences rather than rote memorization (Ellis, 2020). The phases of experiential learning are as follows: concrete experience (i.e. the actual experience), reflection and observation (i.e. reflecting on the experience), forming abstract concepts (i.e. developing concepts based on the experience), and testing these concepts in new situations (Lindsey & Berger, 2009; Miettinen, 2010).  

Clinical simulation learning is available to dietetics educators using a variety of models and tools. Some of the options include the following: 

Laboratory simulation using robots, which depict human patients, are used to gain professional practice in a simulated clinical environment. According to Cooper (2018), The University of Idaho’s dietetics education program is the pioneer academic site to incorporate the SimMan robot to provide experiential learning to their students. After students complete 150 hours of simulation learning with a focus on 10 disease states, such as type 2 diabetes and celiac disease, students then advance to a real clinical environment where they are mentored by preceptors. This link provides a description of how this type of simulation learning is utilized at The University of Idaho ( An important learning experience for dietetics students using SimMan would be to perform Nutrition-Focused Physical Exams. 

SimMan in action
  • Laboratory simulation using human actors to replicate patient interactions. An instructor observes interactions from a nearby booth and provides instant feedback on student performance via a microphone. Additional human actors are present in the simulated environment to mimic an interdisciplinary healthcare team (Cooper, 2018). 
  • Computer software programs designed with 3D virtual simulation learning environments and avatars, which allow interns to interact with patients of varying backgrounds and interdisciplinary healthcare providers (Davis, 2015). Students can practice providing medical nutrition therapy (MNT) services to patients in acute and out-patient settings while increasing their skills in utilizing the Nutrition Care Process, performing coding and billing tasks, and using the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Evidence Analysis Library (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation). An example of this type of simulation learning is described on New Mexico State University’s website:


Computer software programs using a case study approach in a virtual learning environment to provide opportunities for students to enhance their critical thinking and problem solving skills by engaging in the Nutrition Care Process, completing coding and billing exercises, and pre-recorded video interviews with patients to review. One example is Nutrition Care Professionals (NCPRO) Virtual Learning Environment ( 

Source: Davis, A. (2015). Virtual reality simulation. An innovative teaching tool for dietetics experiential education. The Open Nutrition Journal. 9, (suppl. 1-M8),65-75.

  • Virtual reality training using a headset and hand controls, such as Oculus Rift, was not seen in my research on dietetics-specific virtual reality simulation training. However, I did locate software that is currently being used in nursing education. 

How can simulation learning improve student outcomes? 

Numerous benefits of simulation learning in dietetics education have been shared with the dietetics community. A few examples are listed below (Cooper, 2018): 

  • “ability to simulate rare cases and situations that students may not otherwise encounter in their traditional training”
  •  “increased time for instructors to focus on student learning rather than patient care”
  • “ability to quickly repeat and refine student performance”
  • ability to move from simple to more complex skills for progressive learning”
  • “immediate feedback to students”
  • “opportunities for interprofessional interaction with professionals in a wide variety of roles before the student enters the hospital setting.” 

What expertise do dietetics educators need to oversee simulation learning? 

To administer a successful simulation learning curriculum, dietetics educators must: 

  • Understand simulation learning pedagogy 
  • Possess expertise in clinical nutrition to develop curriculum, provide real time feedback to students, and debrief on student performance. 
  • Possess a variety of technological skills required to oversee the various types of simulation learning system adapted. 

The chart below depicts the expertise needed by dietetics educators administering virtual simulation learning in their curriculum: 

Source: Davis, A. (2015). Virtual reality simulation. An innovative teaching tool for dietetics experiential education. The Open Nutrition Journal. 9, (suppl. 1-M8),65-75. 

Evaluation of clinical simulation learning resources

There are several variations of clinical simulation learning resources available for dietetics education. All have merits, but some are more realistic to consider implementing due to the resources required. Laboratory simulations, whether using robots or human actors, require a designated laboratory space and in-person participation. Though this may be something to consider in the future, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I am currently interested in focusing on simulation software that can be accessed from any remote location and can be utilized asynchronously (vs. in real time). These features would allow our interns to either enhance their in person clinical nutrition experiences with supplemental simulation learning, or would enable interns to complete clinical nutrition competencies in a remote learning environment. I have decided to narrow my focus to simulation software, such as NCPRO since it does not require instructors to create the curriculum as opposed to the virtual reality software options. However, now that I have learned so much about options available that simulate the clinical environment, I will definitely consider virtual reality and robot simulations in the future. 


Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation. EatrightPro Practice simulation series.

2017 Standards and Templates. Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics.

Cooper, C.C.(2018). Using simulation in dietetics education. Today’s Dietitian. 20,7,30.  

Davis, A. (2015). Virtual reality simulation. An innovative teaching tool for dietetics experiential education. The Open Nutrition Journal. 9, (suppl. 1-M8),65-75. 

Ellis, A. (2020). Podcast on instructional theory. Seattle Pacific University. 

Levett-Jones T, Lapkin S. (2014). A systematic review of the effectiveness of simulation debriefing in health professional education. Nurse Educ Today. 34,6, 58-63.

Lindsey, L., & Berger, N. (2009). Experiential approach to instruction. In Reigeluth, C., & CarrChellman, A. (2009). Instructional-design theories and models, volume III: Building a common knowledge base (pp. 118-40). Taylor & Francis Group. 

New Mexico State University. Virtual reality and dietetics simulation lab.

Nutrition Care Pro Virtual Learning Environment.

University of Idaho.(2021). Dietetics simulation.

ISTE Standards for Coaching

Using infographics to communicate: An important skill in a dietetic intern’s toolbox

An essential component of a dietetic internship program is providing opportunities for interns to practice communicating food and nutrition information information to the public. Dietetic interns demonstrate their verbal and written communication skills in a variety of ways, including conducting one-on-one counseling sessions with clients, providing in-service presentations to staff, presenting cooking demonstrations, participating in group nutrition education classes, and educating the public through social media platforms. 

One learning competency that dietetic interns are required to achieve according to the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) is CRDN 3.5: “Develop nutrition education materials that are culturally and age appropriate and designed for the literacy level of the audience” (ACEND). The specific learning activity our program has in place to evaluate this competency is that our dietetic interns will develop infographics that are culturally-sensitive and suitable for low-literacy level audiences. Since our program has a community nutrition emphasis, it is important that our dietetic interns understand how to communicate about food and nutrition in a culturally-sensitive manner. Further, experience developing infographics to convey information is a valuable skill to acquire due to the benefits to the consumer offered by this unique communication tool.

My question, which relates to ACEND CRDN 3.5, is as follows:

How can dietetic interns use the digital tool Piktochart collaboratively to demonstrate communication skills? 

My question stems from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards for Educators 4: “Educators dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems.” More specifically, in my review of Piktochart, I will be focusing on ISTE Standards for Educators 4C: “Use collaborative tools to expand students’ authentic, real-world learning experiences by engaging virtually with experts, teams and students, locally and globally” (ISTE).  

Why is communicating through infographics beneficial?


An infographic is “a collection of imagery, charts, and minimal text that gives an easy-to-understand overview of a topic” (Nediger, 2020). Due to the reliance on graphics to explain information and share data with limited text, infographics are an effective tool to provide food and nutrition education to low-literacy level audiences. Also, due to the graphic design emphasis, infographics can be used to tailor educational messages to various target audiences with a focus on age, cultural background, socioeconomic status, and more. Some of the advantages of communicating through infographics include the following: 

  • “Complex information [is] easy to digest” (Nediger, 2020) 
  • “Offers a visual step-by-step task guide” (Pappas, 2016) 
  • Can be designed to:
    • “explain a complex process (Nediger, 2020)
    • “simplify complex concepts or ideas” (Pappas, 2016) 
    • “compare and contrast multiple options” (Nediger, 2020)
    • “provide a quick overview of a topic” (Nediger, 2020)
    • summarize a long blog post or report” (Nediger, 2020)
    • “raise awareness about an issue or cause” (Nediger, 2020)
    • “increase knowledge retention” (Pappas, 2016). 

Further, in an article titled, “Infographics and public policy: Using data visualization to convey complex information,” the authors stated that “…visual communication design as applied to food and nutrition science offers a number of advantages (Otten, J.J., Cheng, K., & Drewnowski, A., 2015). One advantage discussed by the authors highlights interdisciplinary collaboration in the development of infographics to prevent misinterpretation of data shared with the public. This suggestion reflects ISTE Standards for Educators 4, which emphasizes use of digital tools in collaboration with others (ISTE). 

Review of Piktochart 

Piktochart is a visual communications tool which provides users with access to a variety of templates to design infographics, posters, reports, and graphics for social media (Piktochart).

This Youtube video provide a quick overview of Piktochart:


Brigham (2020) provided a review of Piktochart in the Journal of the Medical Library Association. One point discussed is that people can use Piktochart successfully even if they are lacking in graphic design skills and experience. This is due to the variety of templates provided as well as ease of use of this web-based application. Further, Piktochart has a free version, which offers many options for no cost,  as well as monthly subscriptions for their Pro, Team, and Educator options. Below is a comparison chart, which depicts the similarities and differences of the various options: 

FeaturesPiktochart – Free versionPiktochart – Paid subscriptions
Number of templates40>600
Template categoriesInfographics
Printable (posters, reports, and flyers)
Printable (posters, reports, and flyers)
Variety of Icons and graphics?YesYes
Option to insert external graphs, maps, videos, graphics?YesYes
Accessibility – Requires a desktop computer and access to InternetYesYes
Integration: final product can be uploaded as a link to social media platforms, but posting Piktochart visuals directly to social media platforms is a bit more complicatedYesYes
PricingUnlimited use of 40 templatesPricing options: 
Lite version: $15/month
PRO version: $29/month
PRO team version: $13.50/user/month
Education: $39.99/user/year

Piktochart for Teams, which emphases group collaboration, seems ideal for online collaboration of dietetic interns due to the well-thought out features that promote and support teamwork. The Pro Team option includes additional storage capacity as well as organization of team assignments and projects. The video shown below demonstrates the teamwork aspect of Piktochart: 

Comparison of Piktochart with two other visual communication tools 

Beck (2020) conducted a hands-on comparison of three visual communication tools – Piktochart, Canva, and Visme. His evaluation outlines his perceptions of the pros and cons of these three storytelling tools. I have summarized Beck’s review in the following chart: 

ProsEasy to use; includes a share feature; offers numerous free graphics; offers ability to upload your own graphics; tutorials and how-to guides available.
Overall grade: A-
Video tutorials available; broad offering of design templates; infographic templates are organized by categories;
can create “interactive and animated graphics.”
Overall grade: B+
Can create “interactive and animated graphics;”
Includes a “foldering” organizational system; includes a keyword search function for graphics. 
Overall grade: A
Cons“No rich media export options;” 
Maximum of 5 infographics in workspace at a time with free version.
“No rich media export options;” usability; 
limited infographics available.
May take more time to learn to use compared to Piktochart and Canva.

In summary, Piktochart appears to be a promising digital tool for dietetic interns to create infographics to disseminate food and nutrition information to the public. My evaluation is based on Piktochart’s ease of use for those who don’t have a graphic design background, the plethora of features available, and the Pro team option that promotes collaboration and project teamwork.

Utilizing a digital tool such as Piktochart to communicate food and nutrition information to the public demonstrates competency in several 21st century skills, including collaboration, technology literacy, and communication skills – all of which are necessary for the success of budding professionals in today’s workforce (Stauffer, 2020). 


The Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics.

Beck, B. (2020). Piktochart vs. Canva vs. Visme. We put 3 visual storytelling tools to the test. ClearVoice.

International Standards for Technology in Education. (2021).

Nediger, M. (2020). What is an infographic? Examples, templates, and design tips. Venngage.

Otten, J.J., Cheng, K., & Drewnowski, A. (2015). Infographics and public policy: Using data visualization to convey complex information. Health Affairs. 34, 11. 

Pappas, C. (2016). The 7 top benefits of using infographics in online training. Elearning industry.


Stauffer, B. (2020). What are 21st century skills? Applied Educational Systems.

ISTE Standards for Coaching

Teaching Students How to Teach Effectively on Zoom

The 2020-21 academic year is the launch year of the Seattle Pacific University Nutrition and Dietetics Internship program. Our students are post-baccalaureates who are gaining professional experience in the field of dietetics by spending 38 hours per week working alongside mentor dietitians in hospitals, out-patient clinics, schools, senior centers, food banks, and other practice environments.  As program director, I facilitate a 2-hour synchronous seminar class once per week on Zoom where we focus on a variety of professional topics, including practicing for the national board exam for Registered Dietitians Nutritionists (RDN).  During the first week of winter quarter, interns were provided with online access to an exam preparation website. In thinking through ways in which students could engage with the study materials in collaboration with their peers, I developed a lesson plan for a digital teaching project that interns will complete in assigned pairs. This project clearly reflects one of Wiggins’ six facets of understanding – that students can “provide sophisticated theories and illustrations, which provide knowledgeable and justified accounts of events, actions, and ideas” (Gonzalez, 2014).


Using the Understanding by Design (UbD) approach to curriculum design, I began putting my lesson plan together with the end results in mind. 

Phase 1: Identify Desired Results 

To begin, I developed the following essential questions to guide my lesson plan design:

  • How do effective instructors hook and keep the attention of their students? 
  • What is the relationship between digital technology and effective teaching practices? 
  • How can I present more like an experienced teacher?

Next, I created a list of enduring understandings, which represent what I want my students to remember upon completing this class:  

  • Students will understand:
    • How to successfully use Zoom as a vehicle for teaching online
    •  the difference between knowledge-centered and student-centered teaching methods
    • the benefits of student-centered learning and instruction
    • the difference between passive and active learning and instructional practices.
    • How to effectively select and incorporate digital tools into an online class session 

I intentionally integrated The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Student Standard 2 into my lesson plan in the following ways:

  • 2b: Students who are presenting and participating as the audience will practice good citizenship when interacting with their peers in an online format (i.e. Zoom). 
  • 2c. When students are preparing their lesson plans/class sessions, they will be informed and carefully consider the rights and obligations of shared intellectual property when selecting from a plethora of online resources. 

The goals I developed for my lesson plan include the following:

  • Students will begin reviewing and interacting with the RDN exam study materials this quarter (rather than delaying initiation of the studying process); 
  •  Students will work with an assigned partner to teach a 30-minute synchronous Zoom class to their peers  on a topic selected from the following list, which reflects several content areas on the exam study guide: 
    • Education, Communication and Technology
    • Food Science and Nutrient Composition of Foods
    • Nutrition and Supporting Sciences
    • Functions of Management
    • Human Resources
    • Marketing and Public Relations
    • Quality Management and Improvement
    • Menu Development
    • Procurement, Production, Distribution, and Service
    • Sanitation and Safety
    • Equipment and Facility Planning
  • Students will demonstrate skills in digital technology by using Zoom to teach a synchronous class session.
  • Students will become familiar with student-centered teaching by identifying, describing, and using student-centered pedagogy. 
  • Students will incorporate at least two digital technology tools into their interactive class session. 

The performance objectives I developed for my lesson plan are as follows: 

Students will be able to… 

  • demonstrate navigation of the EatRight Prep exam preparation website.
  • utilize three digital tools available on the EatRight Prep website that support board exam preparation.
  • successfully incorporate at least two additional digital tools (e.g. Kahoot, PollEverywhere, JamBoard) to teach and/or assess as part of their student-centered lesson plan.   
  • Explain why digital tools are an important instructional tool within the context of a student-focused curriculum. 

Stage 2: Determine Acceptable Evidence

  • The assessment criteria I used in this lesson plan was a grading rubric and self-reflection paper. 
  • The rubric is broad enough in scope to account for the variability in lesson plans students developed, and included the following assessment criteria: 
    • Information was appropriate for the intended audience; fact-based information was used; project objectives were met; creativity was exhibited; communication was effective; understanding of content was exhibited; and quality expectations were met.
  • The self-reflection paper asks students to address the following prompts: 
  • What did you learn about developing a lesson plan for online instruction? 
  • How did this experience aid in utilization of the EatRight Prep website and study materials? 
  • What did you learn about teaching a synchronous lesson Zoom that utilized digital tools? 
  • What was a highlight from your presentation? 
  • What is something you would change about your presentation if you could teach it again?

Stage 3: The Learning Plan

Assignment scaffolding was incorporated to allow students to complete weekly assignments that built on prior submissions, and which expanded thinking and planning for their online teaching sessions. Students were informed that they would present their class sessions on Zoom during the second half of the quarter. Students were given “choice” on the date to teach their lesson plans. 

The first assignment in my lesson plan included the following instructions: 

Partner teaching project proposal:

  • What specific topic(s) are you interested in researching and presenting from the following RDN exam outline?
    • Education, Communication and Technology
    • Food Science and Nutrient Composition of Foods
    • Nutrition and Supporting Sciences
    • Functions of Management
    • Human Resources
    • Marketing and Public Relations
    • Quality Management and Improvement
    • Menu Development
    • Procurement, Production, Distribution, and Service
    • Sanitation and Safety
    • Equipment and Facility Planning
  • List 3-5 objectives for your course.
  • Describe ideas on how you might incorporate the RDN exam study materials into your lesson plan.
  • Describe how you will teach your class in a way that is student-centered.
  • Describe and provide links to at least two types of digital tools you will incorporate into your class session. 

The second assignment in my lesson plan included the following instructions: 

  • Begin developing a lesson plan which will include the following:
    • Elaborate on your teaching topic(s). What content are you going to teach? What materials are available on EatRight Prep to support your instruction? Be specific.
    • What other credible resources will you use to develop the content of your class?
    • Elaborate on the student-centered techniques you will use when providing instruction.
    • Elaborate on how you will use at least two types of digital tools in your instruction.
    • How will you assess comprehension/learning of content?
    • How will you provide feedback on assessment of learning?

The third assignment in my lesson plan included the following instructions: 

 Finalize your lesson plan to include a detailed outline of the following content:

  • Teaching topic(s) – What are you going to teach? Be specific and include sub-topics.
  • What other credible resources will you use to develop the content of your class? List out textbooks, websites, journal articles, etc.
  • What materials are available on EatRight Prep to support your instruction? List out the test questions that you will use to assess students on their knowledge in formative and summative evaluations.
  • Describe the student-centered techniques you will use when providing instruction by stating each technique, then discuss how you will use the technique in your instruction. List and describe how you will use the selected digital tools during instruction. Describe why you think they will help students learn.
  • Describe the method(s) you will use to assess comprehension/learning of content.
  • Describe how you will provide feedback on assessment of learning.
  • Develop a 30-minute timeline that clearly outlines:
    • Time frames for covering content, activities, assessments, etc.
    • Show who is doing what (i.e. teaching, assessing) in each time interval.
    • Include your “script” – what you will actually say when you teach your class.
    • Include any helpful notes, such as reminders to implement a particular digital tool at a specific time, etc.

The fourth and final assignment in my lesson plan included the following instructions: 

  • Upload your final lesson plan along with a one-page summary of your teaching experience to include: 
    • What did you learn about developing a lesson plan for online instruction? 
    • How did this experience aid in utilization of the EatRight Prep website and study materials? 
    • What did you learn about teaching a synchronous lesson Zoom that utilized digital tools? 
    • What was a highlight from your presentation? 
    • What is something you would change about your presentation if you could teach it again? 

A reflection on lesson plan implementation: 

How did the assignment HOOK all students and HOLD their interests?

  • This assignment hooked students and held their interest because it is relevant to their success as dietetic interns due to the requirement to learn how to provide instruction to an audience and the need to practice interacting with the study materials for the RDN board exam. It also hooked students and held their interests because they had “voice” and “choice” in the content they chose to design their lesson plans around, and “choice” in how they designed their 30-minute class sessions. 

How did the assignment EQUIP students and help them EXPERIENCE the key ideas and EXPLORE the issues?

How were opportunities provided to RETHINK and REVISE their understandings and work?

  • Students were introduced to the assignment during a synchronous class session where Q&A was provided. Then, student pairs were asked to submit weekly scaffolded assignments over the course of one month. Each week, the assignment expanded and built on prior learning and previous assignment submissions. Each week, written feedback was provided in the Canvas gradebook and questions were answered via email and during synchronous Zoom sessions. Students were able to revise any part of their lesson plans up to the final date of submission. Students were also encouraged to share their ideas and plans during synchronous sessions for the benefit of other students. 

How did students EVALUATE their work and its implications?

  • A self-reflection paper was a required component of this assignment. 
  • Instructor feedback will be provided by completing an evaluation rubric. 

How was the assignment TAILORED  to the different needs, interests, and abilities of learners?

  • This assignment was tailored/personalized due to the “voice and choice” encouraged. Student pairs chose their lesson plan topic(s) from a list of 11 subject areas. They were also able to choose the breadth and depth of instructional content within the subject areas, as well as the format of the class session, visual aids to use, student-centered instructional techniques, digital tools used, and methods for assessing the learning of their peers. 

How was the assignment ORGANIZED to maximize initial and sustained engagement as well as effective learning?

  • I believe the scaffolding assignments were clear, concise, and organized. Students had a high level of engagement due to the necessary test preparation using the RDN exam study materials, since passing the exam is personally beneficial and required to gain employment as an RDN.
  • Engagement was likely sustained due to having “voice and choice” in how students developed their lesson plans and class sessions, and curiosity in learning about student-centered learning techniques and digital tools that can be incorporated into online learning sessions. 

In summary, this was a valuable experience learning about the Understanding by Design backwards design framework while simultaneously developing and implementing an assignment in my post-baccalaureate course. Students demonstrated how to teach a learner-centered class by incorporating short “bursts” of instruction followed by interactive activities while navigating the various functionalities of Zoom (i.e. screen share, chat box, showing video clips, and using the breakout rooms). Registered Dietitian Nutritionists spend a significant amount of time providing education to the public. The knowledge and skills needed to teach effectively online, such as what my students demonstrated through this project, will be beneficial to their future success as nutrition professionals.  


Gonzalez, J. (2014, June 23). Understanding by Design, Introduction and Chapters 1-4. [Blog post]. Retrieved from

International Society for Technology in Education.

ISTE Standards for Coaching

Experiential Learning in the Age of COVID-19: How a Necessary Pivot in Programming Enhanced Digital Skill-Building and Social Presence Among Dietetic Interns

Imagine launching a dietetic internship program during a pandemic. All learning activities designed to meet secondary accreditation requirements were planned to take place onsite alongside preceptors in a variety of clinical, food service management, and community nutrition settings. Now, a sudden pivot or redirection of plans is necessary due to some some training sites shifting to fully online learning experiences, while many others are transitioning to a hybrid model of supervised practice. 

As I contemplate my inaugural year as a dietetic internship director one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the following questions guide my reflective thinking specific to digital learning: 

  • How has remote learning afforded new opportunities for digitally-based learning experiences? 
  • How has the COVID-19 pandemic increased opportunities for social presence amongst dietetic interns and, hence, the dietetics profession? 
  • How has the COVID-19 pandemic influenced dietetic intern creativity in expanding nutrition-centered communications through utilization of digital platforms, tools, and media? 

These questions align with the International Society for Technology in Education’s Standard 6 Creative Communicator: How can students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals? Specific goals that align with Standard 6 include the following: 

  • 6a: “Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.”
  • 6d: “Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences” (ISTE).   

With many of our program’s learning activities transitioned to virtually-based activities over the past year, our dietetic interns have had an unexpected benefit in their learning due to expanded knowledge and skill-building using digital platforms and tools. Some of these virtual learning experiences have included the following: 

  • Learning to counsel and educate patients via digital technology 
  • Providing food demonstrations using synchronous online tools, such as Zoom, or uploading pre-recorded food demonstrations to websites and social media platforms 
  • Teaching in real time via Zoom using interactive instructional methods and digital tools to enhance the learning experience 
  • Planning and facilitating live Instagram takeovers 

One example of an assignment interns completed this quarter in our DI Seminar was a virtual teaching project aligned to the following learning outcomes: 

  • Students will gain experience teaching a synchronous session via Zoom. 
  • Students will become familiar with learner-centered teaching by identifying, describing, and using learner-centered pedagogy. 
  • Students will learn to use at least two digital tools into their interactive class session. 


It is essential that future dietetics professionals are familiar with and comfortable utilizing digital platforms and tools to provide nutrition education to the public. This teaching project enabled our interns to present 30-minute lessons on subjects meaningful to their peers while incorporating digital tools into an interactive format.  

Due to the pandemic, it is my impression that our dietetic interns have gained valuable skills in digital technology that may not have been part of the program if all of their supervised practice experiences had been in person. One example is exposure to telehealth, an innovative option for providing medical nutrition therapy services to patients using digital technology. For now, telehealth gives patients assurance that they can avoid coming into contact with COVID-19 during appointments by meeting with their provider virtually. However, this technological advancement was available prior to the pandemic, and it is unlikely to dissipate once the pandemic is behind us as it provides many conveniences to patients, including no commute time, no parking fees, no time wasted in waiting rooms, and an increase in provider options since office location is no longer a consideration. 

In addition to our program’s experiences, I am also interested in exploring how the pandemic has positively affected other dietetic internship programs by enhancing skill-building in digital technology and expanding the social presence of the dietetics profession. 

In a paper titled, “Creating engaged community scholarship through alternate experiential learning in dietetics education,” the authors discuss their experiences pivoting to remote supervised practice experiences at the University of Kentucky. Their experience is different from ours since their program was currently in motion when they switched from onsite to a 100% virtual learning environment in March 2020. The authors mentioned that they collaborated with both internal and external stakeholders to redesign their program to give interns the needed learning experiences in a virtual environment.  

Changes made to the University of Kentucky’s curriculum, which integrate digital technology, enhanced utilization of digital tools and platforms, and increased social presence include the following: 

  • Online case studies were completed in lieu of working with patients in person
  • Guest speakers provided frequent presentations via digital platforms on a variety of nutrition topics
  •  Nutrition education materials were developed and made accessible to consumers online
  • Consumer public service announcements and podcasts were developed and shared with the public 
  • Nutrition education classes were provided to the public using a variety of digital platforms
  • Facebook Live events were planned and executed 
  • Cooking demonstrations were recorded and uploaded to social media platforms (Combs & Schwartz, 2020).

Further, in a paper titled, “Building a ship while sailing: Transition to a virtual dietetic internship in response to COVID-19,” the authors presented information on learning activities their interns experienced virtually, which are stated below: 

  • Virtual medical nutrition therapy simulations 
  • Job interviewing practice
  • Online group discussions with preceptors 
  • Virtual panel discussions (Cummings, McGuire, Larimer & Stadler, 2020)

Moreover, in an article titled, “Student placement adaptability during COVID-19: Lessons learnt in 2020,” the authors share their experiences with transitioning Australia’s University of the Sunshine Coast’s Dietetic Internship program to virtual learning. The article is focused on intern experiences when transitioning clinical nutrition experiences from the in-person setting to virtual telehealth sessions (Pelly, Wiesmayr-Freeman, & Tweedie, 2020).

Combs & Schwartz (2020) discuss how the transition to remote learning increased the amount of time students were spending working online in isolation, as compared to previous experiences when they were working in person with preceptors, their peers, patients, and clients. In response to a need for socialization, the director implemented weekly synchronous meetings where interns shared progress on assignments with each other. In addition, group projects were implemented to increase social interaction. Specialists were also invited to synchronous class sessions where interns would receive feedback on projects in real time, and these interactions enabled interns to practice communicating with professionals in their field (Combs & Schwartz, 2020). 

Similarly to the University of Kentucky’s program structure, our program includes a weekly, 2-hour synchronous seminar class. During this time, interns interact with each other to provide updates on their supervised practice experiences, discuss dietetics-related topics and research, and collaborate in breakout sessions. Guest speakers are also invited to interact with interns and to share their professional experiences. 

Pivoting both new and existing programs in directions that were unforeseen prior to the COVID-19 has resulted in many benefits to dietetic interns. “The knowledge and skills developed through this change are relevant to future work opportunities for graduates and are representative of the future thinking for dietetic education and training which include use of technology, digital literacy and communication skills” (Pelly, Weismayr-Freeman, & Tweedie, 2020). 

Not only have there been numerous opportunities to develop skills in digital technology, interns have also been immersed in an era of supervised practice that requires increased flexibility, adaptability, and resourcefulness. COVID-19-era interns will become especially resilient Registered Dietitian Nutritionists, and may feel that they have the grit to accomplish almost anything! 


Combs, E.L., & Schwartz, A.K. (2020) Creating engaged community scholarship through alternate experiential learning in dietetics education Experiential Learning & Teaching in Higher Education: A Journal for Engaged Educators, 3(1): 22-25. 

Cummings, J., McGuire, J., Larimer, S., and Stadler, D. (2020). Building a ship while sailing: Transition to a virtual dietetic internship in response to COVID-19. J Acad Nutr Diet, 120 (10): A127. 

International Society for Technology in Education.

Pelly, F., Wiesmayr-Freeman, T., Tweedie, T. (2020). Student placement adaptability during COVID-19: Lessons learnt in 2020. Nutr Diet, 77:481-483. 

ISTE Standards for Coaching

Project-Based Learning: A Recipe for Student Autonomy, Voice and Choice, and Sustained Inquiry

As a university dietetics instructor and internship director, I am focused on developing curricula that enables my students to practice and prepare for professional work. As budding professionals, dietetics students need opportunities to build knowledge and develop professional skills in food and nutritional sciences through simulation exercises and experiential learning in authentic settings. Further, due to the explosion of digital technologies utilized in the dietetics field, it is vitally important that dietetics students are provided educational opportunities to practice communicating their knowledge and skills via digital platforms. 

Incorporating projects into dietetics education that utilize digital platforms not only help prepare students for the professional realm, but offer students “voice and choice” in the design process. This curricular approach gives students the freedom to be creative and innovative as they make decisions about content, format, and overall design. My experience as a college professor leads me to believe that this approach to learning will likely increase intrinsic motivation among students since they are not constrained to a rigid set of assignment requirements, topics they are not interested in exploring, or project designs that are not appealing to them. Rather, by following a broad set of project guidelines, students are encouraged to investigate and design based on what is interesting and important to them.    

Further, I believe a critical aspect of being an effective college instructor involves periodic reflection on curriculum and instruction. Some questions to ponder as one reflects on course design include the following: 

  • What makes learning exciting and rewarding to students? 
  • How does the structure of the curriculum affect student motivation? 
  • What types of assignments enable students to build knowledge and develop skills that they will retain beyond a particular college course/term? 
  • How can assignments be designed to foster student autonomy, creativity and imagination? 

As I consider best practices in the instruction of dietetics students, I reflect on the following question as it pertains to utilization of digital technology in project-based learning, and how student voice and choice increase intrinsic motivation and creativity in the design process of project-based learning. How does student autonomy in selection and utilization of digital tools affect the quality of outputs in the design process?

The International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) Standard 4 for Students, “Innovative Designer,” states that: “Students will use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions” (ISTE). Within this category, ISTE Standard 4a states: “Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems” (ISTE).

What is project-based learning? 

According to the Buck Institute for Education, “Project-based learning is a teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real world and personally meaningful projects” (Buck Institute for Education). This type of learning enables students to work on a project that allows voice and choice while investigating a problem or question. Sustained inquiry is a key component of project-based learning whereby students dive into the depths of a subject area over an extended period of time to answer questions or problems that are meaningful to them. Projects culminate with a public product, such as a blog post or a website. This instructional model enhances the learning process by including student reflection, which is an essential component of Kolb’s theory of experiential learning (Lindsey & Berger. 2009).  


Examples of Project-based Learning in Higher Education 

In a research article titled, “Fostering students’ autonomy: Project-based learning as an instructional strategy,” the author describes the curriculum design and outcomes of incorporating project-based learning design into an English language immersion class. Thirty university students worked in pairs to research a business of their choice and design a 15-minute PowerPoint presentation on the organization’s characteristics, such as the marketing mix, their mission and vision statements, a SWOT analysis, etc. Students were required to incorporate multimedia into their presentations, but were given autonomy on what to include. The results showed that the use of project-based learning instruction had a positive impact on student autonomy, collaborative learning, content knowledge, presentation skills, language acquisition, and use of technology tools (Rostom, 2019).  

Further, in an article titled, “Everyone designs: Learner autonomy through creative, reflective, and iterative practice mindsets,” the authors underscore the importance of an instructional approach that is open to creativity and reflection. The authors discuss that although encouraging autonomy in the learning process requires teachers to forgo some instructional control and the need to create learning opportunities that support autonomy, this approach benefits students through the development of 21st century skills, which are necessary for success in the professional world (Henriksen, Cain, & Mishra, 2018). 

Following are some of the many 21st century skills that can be formed through project-based learning (

  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Communication, teamwork and leadership skills 
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Information and communication technology, digital citizenship, and digital literacy 
  • Research skills
  • Planning and self-direction

Lastly, in a research paper titled, “Facilitating adoption of web tools for problem and project based learning activities,” the authors provide examples of the types of digital tools that are appropriate to use during various stages of project-based learning.  The paper provides an enlightening table detailing specific web-based tools that can assist students when they are working on various components of project-based learning, such as assimilating, communicating. producing, and practicing (Khalid, Rongbutsri, & Buus, 2012).  

In conclusion, project-based learning offers numerous benefits to college students and supports voice and choice in their educational pursuits. Dietetics students need opportunities to practice communicating their knowledge and skills using an instructional format that encourages revision and reflection and the opportunity to create products that are shared with the public. Project-based learning is an ideal teaching method for these purposes, and its use in dietetics education should be encouraged. 


21st Century Skills. (2016).

Henrickson, D., Cain, W., Mishra, P. (2018). Everyone designs: Learner autonomy through creative, reflective, and iterative practice mindsets. Journal of Formative Design in Learning, 2, 69-81. 

International Society for Technology in Education.

Khalid, M. S., Rongbutsri, N., & Buus, L. (2012). Facilitating Adoption of Web Tools for Problem and Project Based Learning Activities. In V. Hodgson, C. Jones, M. D. Laat, D. McConnell, T. Ryberg, & P. Sloep (Eds.), Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Networked Learning 2012 (pp. 559-566).

Lindsey, L., & Berger, N. (2009). Experiential approach to instruction. In Reigeluth, C., & CarrChellman, A. (2009). Instructional-design theories and models, volume III: Building a common knowledge base (pp. 118-40). Taylor & Francis Group. 

Rostom, M. (2019). Fostering students’ autonomy: Project-based learning as an instructional strategy. SOCIOINT 2019- 6th International Conference on Education, Social Sciences and Humanities

ISTE Standards for Coaching

The Importance of Online Research Skills in the Digital Age

The nutrition and dietetics profession is deeply rooted in evidence-based research and practice. Dietetics students become well-versed early in their academic careers in utilizing peer-reviewed journal articles, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Evidence Analysis Library, Cochrane databases, and other sources encouraged by faculty that provide evidence-based research and best practices. And although students are familiar with a variety of credible professional information sources, they may not have a solid grasp on the knowledge and skills required to search, locate, organize, evaluate, and synthesize online research. 

Therefore, a guiding question for students in understanding the goal of online research is as follows: What outcomes may be derived from successful implementation of online research skills?  

My inquiry aligns with ISTE Standard 3: Knowledge Constructor: “Curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions” (ISTE). 

According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, when asked about the “impact of today’s digital environment on their students research habits and skills” (Purcell, et. al, 2012), some of the issues raised include the following: 

  • A decline in critical thinking skills
  • Ability to assess online information for quality 
  • Over-reliance on search engines 

A significant number of teachers surveyed emphasized the importance of teaching students online research skills, including how to evaluate sources of information, how to locate information without depending on search engines, and also how to utilize search engines for best results (Purcell et. al, 2012). 

Further, in an interview discussing how research skills are taught to college students, Fister provides excellent reasoning for why students may not demonstrate the abilities they possess in online research skills and knowledge. One point of discussion focuses on the course curriculum and assignment expectations. Students may not be as motivated to complete high-quality research for assignments that essentially don’t provide much room for “voice and choice.” This could include going through the motions to check off rubric boxes, such as page number and reference requirements (Fister, 2012). As college students are instructed on building knowledge and skills in online research practices, it makes a lot of sense that instructors also evaluate their research paper assignment expectations, and to consider offering voice and choice in what students research and how they present their findings. 

Further, in my role as a university professor, I often explore students’ prior knowledge, skills, and experiences attained and how they affect subsequent learning. In thinking about prior knowledge and skills acquired for effective online research practices, a logical retrospective perspective is an understanding of the competencies aligned with high school curricula. The Common Core State Standards Initiative, launched in 2009, contains overarching goals of preparing students for college and careers ( The majority of U.S. states have implemented Common Core Standards into their instruction and assessment practices, but they may differ from state to state. Upon reviewing Washington State Common Core Standards, I discovered that Washington aligns their educational technology standards with ISTE standards (Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction). Examples of evidence demonstrating that Washington State high school students have met the ISTE standard for knowledge constructor are as follows: 

  • “Students can modify search strategies to demonstrate resiliency in the research process.”
  • “Create a resource that outlines where and how students can access valid and reliable health information, products, and services.”
  • “Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation (Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction).”

It appears that Washington has a strong set of standards in place related to online research skills. However, since Common Core Standards are not standardized across all 50 states, it seems prudent to instruct all dietetics majors on basic knowledge and skills necessary for successful online research practices. 

In an article titled, “10 Strategic Steps for Teaching for Teaching Online Research Skills to Your Learners, the author stresses the importance of not assuming that because our students are “digital natives” and are fluent in many aspects of technology use, that they understand how to use the Internet properly for research purposes. Below are highlights of the article, which include basic knowledge and skills as well as practical tips that will benefit students as they use the Internet for research purposes ( 

  • Knowledge: 
    • Students need to understand the various types of domains present on the Internet and which (and whether) search domains should be used for research (e.g. org, .edu, gov). 
    • Scholarly search engines: Introduce students to a variety of scholarly search engines and encourage them to access them.
    • Encyclopedia use: Encourage students to review information found in scholarly online encyclopedias, but use caution when reviewing content on Wikipedia since contributions may be written by non-scholars. 
  • Skills: 
    • Students need to be taught online research skills. Students should realize that effective online research takes time, and they shouldn’t strive to locate information quickly by automatically using the first few search results. 
    • Examples of how to refine online research inquiries include the following: 
      • Searches should be specific rather than generalized or vague to increase likelihood of locating information that is beneficial. 
      • Searches linking two subjects can be done so by including a plus (+) sign in between concepts, such as vitamin C+ sources. 
      • Using an asterisk (*) as part of a search question can yield the answer. An example is: “The war of 1812 began because * .”
      • Time frame: Narrowing down search results to a specific time frame can be done in Google by clicking on tools then either finding a specific date or range of dates from which to receive search results. 
    • Higher level thinking skills, such as critical thinking, analysis, and evaluation are key to effectively determining validity and reliability of search results. 

In conclusion, although college students these days are considered digital natives and are familiar and comfortable with a wide variety of digital technologies, students need to develop digital literacy in online inquiry and research to be successful in their academic pursuits and in their careers. Allowing students voice and choice in what they choose to research and how they present their findings will likely increase intrinsic motivation and diligence throughout the online research process. 


Author unknown. 10 strategic steps for teaching online research to your learners. Wabisabi Learning.

Common Core State Standards Initiative.

International Society for Technology in Education. ISTE Standards for Coaches. 

Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. 2018 Educational technology standards.

Purcell, K, et al. How teens do research in the digital world. Pew Research Center.

Fister, B. Playing for Keeps: Rethinking how research is taught to today’s college students. Project Information Literacy.