Educating and training a multisectoral food systems workforce is a critical part of developing sustainable, resilient, and healthy food and water systems. This paper shares perspectives from a working group of educators, learners, and food systems subject matter experts that collaborated over the course of a year to develop, pilot test, and evaluate two interactive webinar series with a multi-site cohort of dietetics interns and graduate students. The three-part webinar series format included a training webinar, a practice activity, and a synthesis webinar. In reflecting on the effectiveness of this format, we provide direct assessments of student learning from subject matter experts alongside indirect assessments from pre- and post-surveys fielded with learners. Learners who participated in an interactive webinar series demonstrated skills in several dimensions of systems thinking and gained confidence in food systems learning outcomes. Learners also shared valuable feedback on the opportunities and challenges of using online platforms for this experience. As online learning opportunities become more common, it will become increasingly important for educators to prioritize strategies that effectively equip students with the higher-order thinking skills, such as systems thinking, needed to address the complexities of sustainable food systems. The interactive webinar series format described here provides an opportunity to leverage didactic webinars in combination with interactive experiences that enable learners to deepen their knowledge through practice with peers and subject matter experts. Though this format was piloted within dietetics education programs, many of the lessons learned are transferable to other food systems educational contexts.

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Published in Frontiers in Nutrition, v. 8, article 623336.

© 2021 Spiker, Hege, Giddens, Cummings, Steinmetz, Tagtow, Bergquist, Burns, Campbell, Stadler, Combs, Prange, Schwartz, Brown and Sauer.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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MS performed this work as part of an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation Fellowship. AH performed this work as part of a contract role with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation. Both roles were funded through an educational grant from the National Dairy Council. KB and JG are employed by the National Dairy Council, and they were members of the working group described in this paper. JC received an honorarium from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation for her participation as a subject matter expert in an interactive webinar series.