Next Generation Digital Learning Environments for Use in Higher Education

Concurrent Session 4
Blended Equity and Inclusion

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Whether a seasoned professional or a newcomer, this session will allow anyone who works with NGDLEs, or plans to, to share their own experiences. We will guide participants through topics such as “The difference between VLEs and LMSs” and “How do archaic VLEs and/or LMSs impact minority students?”


John Findura is the Writing Center Supervisor of Bergen Community College's national award-winning Cerullo Learning Assistance Center. He oversees one-on-one tutoring, study groups, and various Writing/English related services for a student population of over 14,000. He holds a BA in English, an MFA in Poetry, an M.Ed in Professional Counseling, and is currently a doctoral student in Educational Technology Leadership at New Jersey City University. In addition to his Writing Center role, he also teaches Composition, online Human Relations, and online Multicultural Communications. Outside of academia he works as a Board Certified adolescent psychotherapist in a community mental health clinic. A widely publish poet and critic, he is the author of the poetry collection Submerged (Five Oaks Press, 2017) and his poetry and criticism appear in numerous journals including Verse; Fourteen Hills; Copper Nickel; Pleiades; Forklift, Ohio; Sixth Finch; Prelude; and Rain Taxi. John lives in Northern New Jersey with his wife and daughters.

Additional Authors

Samantha Bahna, Teacher of English and ESL at Somerville Public Schools, NJ, is a speaker, mentor, student, and trainer, all while working to receive a doctoral degree in Educational Technology Leadership at New Jersey City University, NJ. Additionally, Samantha is an Emerging Leader Fellow for the National Council Teacher of English's, Council for Exceptional Leaders (CEL) Committee. As a past Curriculum Resource Teacher, department head for English, and national leadership fellow, Samantha has assisted faculty, administrators, and even local government officials in conceptualizing and designing ESL, English, and adult literacy programs in urban communities and schools in NJ. Samantha has been recently elected to the statewide teacher-leadership committee, Learning Forward, NJ to shape initiatives for the implementation of successful programming and coursework for educators to receive endorsement in Teacher Leadership. To read Samantha's blog, or to learn more information, go to

Extended Abstract

Integrating technology and software for learning in higher education has long been recognized as an integral part in distance education courses. As far back as 2007, Simonson defined course management systems (CMSs) as virtual education platforms that manage how learning takes place online. Simonson identified that CMS technology assisted educators and learners, though the direct impact on student achievement had yet to be determined. Simonson’s research was instrumental to Watters (2014), as traditional LMS software emphasized the instructor and subject matter, not the learner. Watters explained that restrictive learning environments existed in closed LMS systems such as Blackboard, which “reflects the technological desires of administrators. It does not reflect the needs of teachers and learners,” (2014).

As such, whether it is for academic advising, course enrollment, or an assessment, Learning Management Systems (LMSs), Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs), or Course Management Systems (CMSs) are pervasive in online education. Changes in student needs and learning styles, incorporation of data, and consideration to student retention rates has increased the need for universities and educational technology professionals to resolve the challenges to effective personalized instruction in distance education.

This session will allow for a guided discussion with professionals who have experience in VLEs and LMSs as well as those just beginning to work with them, regardless of their experience. Using the following guided questions, interaction will be channeled into a lively discussion where all levels of participants can share information or even state their own questions or concerns:

  1. What is the difference between Virtual Learning Environments and Learning Management Systems? 
  2. What constitutes next-generation digital learning environments?
  3. How can practitioners create next-generation digital learning environments (NGDLE)?
  4. Why are NGDLE important for student success and retention?
  5. How do archaic LMSs and VLEs impact minority students in blended or online learning courses?

Moving mountains is a difficult undertaking, but in education, it is often necessary in order to reach our goals and our students’ goals. Using the right technology, and, perhaps more importantly, using it wisely, can make seemingly impossible tasks shrink from a mountain to a molehill.



Simonson, M. (2007). Course management systems. The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 8(1), p. vii-ix. Retrieved


Watters, A. (2014, September 5). Beyond the LMS. Retrieved from