Case Study: Nutrition - University of Rhode Island

Digital Product in Use:

Connect® Nutrition

Course Name:

Nutrition and Food Sciences 207: General Nutrition

Course Type:


Credit Hours:


Textbook in Use:

Wardlaw’s Perspectives in Nutrition: A Functional Approach by Carol Byrd-Bredbenner 2e

Instructor Name:

Sarah Larson MS, RD, LDN, and Clinical Assistant Professor: Amanda Missimer PhD, RD, LDN


100/term (instructor total)

750/year (university total)

Case Study Term:

Spring 2020 and Fall 2020

“Students are more attuned to their overall diet due to the Intelligent Response questions in Connect regarding what they are eating because the feedback is completely personalized to them. The entire project is about themselves, and they are more engaged with the actual individualized information.”

– Amanda Missimer, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, Unv. of Rhode Island

Connect® Nutrition Integrates Seamlessly and Provides Personalization for High Enrollment Classes

A challenge in high enrollment classes is to give students a personalized experience, which led Larson and Missimer to integrate the course’s Dietary Assessment Project (DAP) with their learning management system (LMS), D2L Brightspace and Connect for their fully online General Nutrition courses.

For the DAP, worth 25% of the students’ grades, students record their own food and beverage intake and assess their own consumption of macro- and micro-nutrients. Students compare their personal intake to national recommendations and create suggestions to improve their own dietary and lifestyle quality. Next, students make dietary and lifestyle modifications in their lives to improve their overall well-being and reduce risks for acute and chronic disease.

Integrating the DAP into Connect and the University’s newly adopted LMS enabled students to receive individualized assessments of their diets and facilitated grading workflows for the instructors.

The integration was successful – 80% of students in the class earned 80% or higher on each component of the project while assessing the specifics of their own macro- and micronutrient intakes.

A student commented: “The Connect quizzes forced me to read the material to find the correct answers, and the Dietary Assessment Project required that I give myself dietary recommendations and research better choices.”


The course grade is determined by the following:

  • 15% Connect/SmartBook assignments
  • 35% Connect quizzes
  • 25% Dietary Assessment Project
  • 25% Discussions

Students use SmartBook to complete SmartBook assignments prior to lecture on the assigned chapter’s material. Students have unlimited time to complete the assignments, which are graded based on completion, until the due date. One SmartBook assignment grade is dropped from the total grade. Students are encouraged to revisit SmartBook before taking chapter quizzes.

Prior to the semester, each instructor customizes sections of chapters included in the assignment to align with course content, chooses ques-tions, and assigns point values. Larson and Missimer say, “The number of questions and point values can easily be customized in Connect based on instructor preference.”

For chapter quizzes, each instructor uses the “Wardlaw’s Perspectives of Nutrition” question bank for each chapter’s material to build a custom quiz. The built-in question bank provides autograded questions for either one chapter or multiple chapters and the number of questions and point values can be customized easily in Connect. Students are given a time limit and allowed two attempts to complete these quizzes until the due date. Students may drop one quiz. Larson and Missimer say, “Due to the pivot to online teaching, these weekly quizzes have replaced cumulative exams for the Fall 2020 semester.”

Students average four assignments and quizzes per week. Grades are automatically exported from Connect to the LMS, reducing time required by the instructors to manage student grades.

Example Assignment and Quiz

For Chapter 4: Human Digestion and Absorption, students are asked to read Chapter 4 in the text. The SmartBook assignment is opened on Monday at 12:00 a.m. and due Thursday at 11:55 p.m. Students are estimated to need approximately 30 minutes to complete the assignment, although the assignment is not timed and students receive full credit upon completion so long as it is submitted by the due date. Students are then asked to view the associated lecture.

Following review of the provided material and the SmartBook assignment, students are asked to post to the class Discussion located in Brightspace and to reply to their classmates.

The Chapter 4 quiz is opened on Monday at 12:00 a.m. and due Sunday at 11:55 p.m. Students are given two attempts to complete the quiz, each attempt lasting 40 minutes, where the highest of the scores is recorded.

In addition, students are working on their DAP throughout the semester where some aspects are submitted through Connect and others through the LMS.

Larson and Missimer state, “Connect/SmartBook allows instructors to quickly move through basic information, such as definition of terms and allows us to dive deeper into critical course content during lecture.”

Dietary Assessment Project

Larson and Missimer give students an opportunity to become familiar with the NutritionCalc Plus (NCP) by providing low-stakes, autograded assignments built from the Assess My Diet question bank. Students learn how to set up a profile, enter foods, modify portions, and add activity levels ensuring that students will get the most accurate results when entering food and beverage data.

Students record three days of food and beverage intake. After detailed feedback is provided by the teaching team, students answer questions from the Assess My Diet question bank specific to their personal intakes. The Intelligent Response questions prompt students to enter their own intake of a particular nutrient and those questions generate answers based on inputted student data. Larson and Missimer say, “The Intelligent Response questions, along with the autograde feature, further emphasizes the ease of personalization by using these tools.”

Students compare their intake of macro- and micro-nutrients to the national recommendations and, to complete the initial dietary assessment, students begin to think of ways to modify their own diet.

The “Set My Goals” questions from the Assess My Diet question bank were adapted to enable students to write two SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely) goals and post the goals to the Discussion in the LMS for feedback. Larson and Missimer say, “We wanted to foster a sense of community, provide detailed feedback, and give space for encouragement from peers and the teaching team, so that students could create their most achievable goals.”

After revising their SMART goals, students implement the dietary changes for a defined period of time and track their progress using a provided tracker. Students reflect on their goals, note any diet modifications, and connect these changes to impacts for their overall long-term health.

For comparison, students complete the same dietary assessment in Connect using the Assess My Diet question bank assigned following the initial dietary record so that students can see which nutrients were increased, decreased, or remained unchanged during the semester.

To complete the project, students answer open-ended questions in the LMS that describe their diet, the impact the project has had on their dietary patterns, and the overall Connection to their own personal health outcomes.

To help monitor students’ progress, the teaching team uses the Progress Overview report in SmartBook. They also use Assignment Results to see the course as a whole and to identify which students are missing assignments and how many assignments students are missing.

The Student Performance report is used to see when students started an assignment and when students submitted that assignment.

Larson and Missimer agree. “Using Connect has significantly decreased grading time for instructors and graduate teaching assistants. More efficient grading has also increased the outcomes of the quizzes by reducing the amount of time reviewing quizzes, allowing us to make changes to content and to adjust how we can best use Connect.”

Results Achieved

From the Spring 2020 semester to the Fall 2020 semester, Larson and Missimer made substantial changes to their courses with Connect due to the pivot to fully online instruction in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We went from 10% of the course in Connect to 75% of the course having Connect-based materials and assignments.”

When the course was 10% Connect-based, the average exam score consisted of three unit exams and one semi-cumulative final that was created by the instructor and was not Connect-based. Larson’s students averaged 76% on exams and Missimer’s students averaged 72% (Figure 1).

However, in the Fall 2020, 75% of the course was Connect-based. The average quiz score consisted of 13 weekly quizzes, with one quiz that could be dropped. The quizzes were 100% created in Connect. Larson’s students averaged 83% for their quiz scores, and Missimer’s students averaged 84% (Figure 1).


Integrating Connect more completely into the course allowed students to have an individualized experience around their own dietary patterns and created an opportunity to engage students person-ally in the course. When the course consisted of 75% of Connect-based content, students improved their assessment scores and 80% of students earned 80% or higher on each part of the Dietary Assessment Project.

Instructor Biography

Sarah Larson earned her BS and MS in Nutrition and Food Science at the University of Rhode Island (URI). Following graduation, she completed her dietetic internship through Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.

Prior to joining the faculty at URI, Sarah worked as an inpatient Clinical Nutrition Specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, where she specialized in the nutrition considerations for children undergoing chemotherapy and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Sarah then transitioned to an outpatient Registered Dietitian at a large private practice of RDs, Evolution Nutrition, in Rhode Island where she worked with people of all ages, backgrounds, and diagnoses to provide evidence-based nutrition counseling and interventions.

Sarah is a Senior Lecturer and she teaches many courses for the department, including large introductory nutrition courses to first year students across the campus as well as upper-level food science courses to those pursuing degrees in nutrition and dietetics. In addition, Sarah is the Didactic Program in Dietetics Director.

Dr. Amanda Missimer began her nutrition studies at The Pennsylvania State University earning a bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Sciences and completed her studies at the University of Connecticut. Earning a Masters degree and Doctor of Philosophy degree in Nutritional Sciences, Dr. Missimer graduated and completed her dietetic internship. While finishing at UConn, Dr. Missimer began instructing courses at the University of Rhode Island and Salve Regina University. Dr. Missimer has a joint appointment as a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences and Cooperative Extension where she teaches undergraduate and graduate nutrition courses and provides nutrition education to the Rhode Island Community.