Making the CASE: Elements for a Successful Virtual Learning Environment

Concurrent Session 6

Brief Abstract

An online course requires careful development of a setting that encourages and promotes student learning. Incorporating five fundamental elements (CASE) - Climate, Access, Support and Safety, and Engagement - into the design of your course can help you to create a successful learning environment.


Lisa is the Director of Online Learning for the University of Rochester's Institute for Innovative Education. She holds a Doctorate of Education, along with an Advanced Certificate in Online Teaching and Learning. Additionally, she teaches future teachers how to teach online at the University's Warner School of Education.

Extended Abstract

Regardless of the topic you teach, every online course requires development of an environment that promotes student learning. Community of Inquiry (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer) promotes the concept of creating cognitive presence, teaching presence, and social presence in order to cultivate a community of learning; however this is easier said than done. Incorporating certain fundamental elements - Climate, Access, Support and Safety, and Engagement - into the design of your course can help create a dynamic and adaptive learning environment.

In this presentation, we will look at different methods and approaches for developing an engaging and enriching environment. The University of Rochester CASE model presents five fundamental elements of a virtual learning environment (VLE):

Climate: How VLE’s are constructed or structured can facilitate a learning climate that supports diversity and scaffolds learning for student success.  Important to the learning climate is the student’s sense of belonging and connections made between other learners and the faculty.  We will present strategies on how to build a successful climate that allows all learners and faculty to feel included and connected.

Access: Decreasing barriers to access is a vital component to the structure of any VLE.  Access includes content accessibility, as well as technological considerations for your intended audience. We will present methods and considerations for both mobile and web based access components.

Support and Safety:  For all VLE’s we need to think about how to promote safety and support for learners, including psychological and emotional well-being.  We will present a checklist of opportunities to build in support and psychological safety for your learning community.

Engagement: Learning is socially constructed; therefore you need meaningful learner engagement for a successful course.  Learning opportunities might include active and experiential learning, collaborative learning, or learner-centered approaches. We will share with you strategies to promote engagement of all learners.

At the end of the session, participants will be able to

·       Identify potential access issues and approaches for modification

·       Identify materials that support diversity and equity

·       Establish procedures for promoting a safe and supportive environment

·       Construct activities that drive engagement and connectedness