Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership
with a concentration in Learning Design and Leadership
in the Graduate College of the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2019
Over the past 20 years, Learning Management System (LMS) software has become a standard part of teaching practices in higher education institutions. These platforms were developed and sold with the promise of increasing student involvement, supporting teaching pedagogies, and enabling more distance learning programs. While instructors and administrators have embraced various platforms that they feel will serve them best, there is need of a better theoretical framework to compare them.
In this dissertation I present a Model of Engaged Online Learning to explain the balance between human and technical elements of the situation of learning. My model examines interactions among three points: LMS Design and Affordances; Pedagogical Philosophy and Course Design; and Learner Characteristics and Motivations. In my model I explore the concept that any change to one factor will affect and be affected by the other factors. Most importantly, this relationship means that the design of LMS platforms results in a groove that biases the users to follow a designated pedagogy or a path of least resistance.
I believe my model can be used to guide comparisons of the structure and efficacy of LMS platforms. I demonstrate this with two studies that show the interaction of instructors and learners with learning technologies. The first study uses a mixed methods evaluative framework to compare the three largest LMS platforms by market share (Blackboard Learn, Moodle, and Instructure Canvas), along with an experimental social knowledge platform (Common Ground Scholar) being developed by University of Illinois researchers. The second study uses an ethnographic framework to study a core course in the Master of Education program as it is offered online. Further questions and recommendations for future research are offered.