In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, collaboration among faculty in the Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at the University of Kentucky yielded two, four-week virtual experiential learning opportunities with Cooperative Extension for 19 dietetic interns. Remote experiences focused on development of new programming regarding the role of nutrition in the prevention/management of the most prevalent chronic diseases affecting Kentuckians and translating an existing social marketing program that promotes quality family time through preparation of nutritious, affordable home-cooked meals. Weekly assignments took ~10 hours, included individual and groupwork, and came together to create program packages encompassing commonly used products (e.g., podcast, recipe demonstration). Interns perceived improvement in professional competencies and transferable skills – notably adaptability, multitasking, and cooperation. They also reported gains in competency with software programs and awareness of the diverse roles for registered dietitian nutritionists in community settings. Lessons learned include: the need for streamlined coordination and communication of timelines across overlapping tasks; more support to transition to remote work environments including virtual shared workspaces, group work, and tech support, and the value of providing interns purposeful learning experiences during times of uncertainty. Extension-based projects, in-person or virtual, can provide opportunities for valuable experiential learning that build professional competencies and transferable skills.
Luecking, Courtney T.; Combs, Elizabeth; and Norman-Burgdolf, Heather, "Alternative Community Nutrition Experiential Learning Opportunities for Dietetic Interns during COVID-19" (2021). Dietetics and Human Nutrition Faculty Publications. 36.