Learning Community and Student Engagement Through the Community of Inquiry Framework in a Dietetics Program


Nutrition and dietetics education is transforming as ACEND-accredited programs transition to align with the graduate degree requirement for RDN exam eligibility. Furthermore, as a result of the pandemic, a shift towards online and hybrid education for graduate and even undergraduate students has occurred. At James Madison University, faculty have worked intentionally to strengthen classroom community within hybrid undergraduate dietetics courses as a model for developing our ACEND-accredited Graduate Program. We have integrated the “Community of Inquiry” (CoI) framework into the Clinical Nutrition I and II and Counseling Skills for Dietetics courses, taken by junior and senior dietetics majors. This session will discuss the CoI framework, which utilizes the three dimensions–teaching, social and cognitive presence–to build community, promote student and faculty connection, and enhance learning and engagement. Consequently, supportive teaching strategies are used within both face-to-face and online classrooms and are integrated into the structure and use of Canvas, a learning management system. The session will include our implementation of pedagogical strategies, CoI evaluative tools, as well as preliminary data on the CoI results from the undergraduate courses.

Learning Objectives

Discuss three ways the changing requirements in nutrition and dietetics education and in higher education trends will impact educational content, pedagogies and strategies

Discuss the three dimensions of the Community of Inquiry framework and its specific applications for enhancing engagement and learning outcomes within traditional, hybrid or classroom

Identify four learning strategies which can be applied to the traditional, hybrid and online classrooms to build community and enhance student engagement and outcomes

Performance Indicators

9.1 Recognizes and applies learning theories and principles in practice

9.2 Establishes, develops and implements program outlines and learning plans to meet the needs of individuals, groups, communities and populations

9.3 Designs, selects and implements education strategies to meet the learning needs of individuals, groups, communities and populations


Ana Abad-Jorge

Associate Professor

James Madison University

Jennifer Walsh

Associate Professor

James Madison University


Jill Comess

Food Science and Nutrition Program Director

Norfolk State University

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