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“One reason we are stuck in outdated classrooms is that too many school systems are frozen in sameness – the same books, the same lessons, the same pace, the same treatment of each learner.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.