Fostering Learner-Centered Remote Environments

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Brief Abstract

This qualitative case study drew on the Community of Inquiry framework to examine remote learning interactions among instructors, students, and course designers as they adapted to a new learning management system at the University of Victoria in the fall 2020, a time when the university quickly shifted from face-to-face instruction to remote learning because of public health measures.

Extended Abstract

Public health measures in 2020 quickly forced universities across the world to suddenly rely ever more heavily on learning management systems (LMSs) to deliver remote learning opportunities. Thus universities have had to use LMSs in novel ways that have not yet been clearly defined in teaching and learning practices. While much literature describes how LMSs have the potential to support learning, little is known about how LMSs have been used to replace face-to-face (F2F) learning to foster a learner-centered remote environment during the recent public health restrictions. To address this gap in literature, I carried out an exploratory case study to examine how the University of Victoria adapted to and used a new learning management system called Brightspace during the fall term in 2020. The study is part of the project titled, “Fostering Online Student-Centered Environments during the
 COVID-19 Pandemic: A Case Study,” which is funded by the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Education. 

The study aimed to examine two questions:

  • How do students, instructors, and course designers describe their interactions with content and each other while using the University of Victoria’s new learning management systems, Brightspace?
  • Which practices do students, instructors, and course designers use to foster an online learner-centered environment with Brightspace during the fall 2020?

I chose a qualitative case study approach because it provides an opportunity for in-depth exploration of a bounded system (in this case a specific institution and event) based on extensive data collection (Creswell & Creswell, 2018). I collected the data from university policy documents, including LMS policies, teaching and learning policies, research policies, equity and accessibility policies, and privacy policies. I chose to interview students, instructors, and course designers because they have been the primary users of the new LMS at the University of Victoria. However, the University of Victoria withheld permission to recruit course designers for the study. Therefore, I led individual semi-structured interviews with 10 student participants and 5 instructor participants.

I analyzed the interview responses according to a coding template, which follows the three learning dimensions that form the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework (Cleveland-Innes et al., 2019), a theoretical model used to assess learning design in the context of online learning environments that support constructivist-learning experiences, (Cleveland-Innes, Gauvreau, Richardson, Mishra, Ostashewski, 2019; Garrison, 2016). The three learning dimensions are teaching, cognitive, and social presence. Teaching presence refers to how the instructor leads the learning process and goals by designing and facilitating the course. Cognitive presence refers to how students engage with the content through dialogue and communication to construct meaning. Social presence refers to how the students and instructor participate in the learning process by engaging in a trusting environment where they express their personalities (Cleveland-Innes et al., 2019). Thus I coded interview responses according to the CoI framework indicators such as building understanding and modes of instruction for teaching presence; communication and emotional expression for social presence; and exploration and integration for cognitive presence. 

The findings of this study will address the existing gap in the literature about LMS use in higher education, provide practical solutions on how to foster learner-centered learning, and contribute to future research about how remote learning and adaptive technology can be used to support student learning, access and participation, and, ultimately, academic success. 

Level of Participation:
As this is a Discovery presentation, it will be brief and will highlight findings and recommendations.

Session Goals: 

Participants attending this presentation will learn about current research results and recommendations about how to foster learner-centred remote environments in higher education.


Cleveland-Innes, M., Gauvreau, S., Richardson, G., Mishra, S., & Ostashewski, N. (2019).  Technology-enabled learning and the benefits and challenges of using the community of inquiry theoretical framework. International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education34, (1), 1-18.

Falvo, D. A., & Johnson, B. F. (2007). The use of learning management systems. Techtrends51 (2). 

Garrison, D. R. (2016). Thinking collaboratively: Learning in a community of inquiry. New York, NY: Routledge.

Kattoua, T., Al-Lozi, M., &  Alrowwad, A. (2016). A Review of literature on e-learning systems in higher education. International Journal of Business Management and Economic Research7(5), 754-762.