Reimagining the Learning Management System as a “Third” Space
Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 32920
Reimagining the Learning Management System as a “Third” Space

Authors: Christina Van Wingerden


This paper focuses on a sense of belonging, isolation, and the use of a learning management system as a “third space” for connection and community. Given student use of learning management systems (LMS) for courses on campuses, moderate to high use of social media and hand-held devices, the author explores the possibilities of LMS as a third space. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated student experiences of isolation, and research indicates that students who experience a sense of belonging have a greater likelihood for academic retention and success. The impacts on students of an LMS designed for student employee orientation and training were examined through a mixed methods approach, including a survey, individual interviews, and focus groups. The sample involved 250-450 undergraduate student employees at a US northwestern university. The goal of the study was to find out the efficiency and effectiveness of the orientation information for a wide range of student employees from multiple student affairs departments. And unexpected finding emerged within the study in 2015 and was noted again as a finding in the 2017 study. Students reported feeling like they individually connected to the department, and further to the university because of the LMS orientation. They stated they could see themselves as part of the university community and like they belonged. The orientation, through the LMS, was designed for and occurred online (asynchronous), prior to students traveling and beginning university life for the academic year. The students indicated connection and belonging resulting from some of the design features. With the onset of COVID-19 and prolonged sheltering in place in North America, as well as other parts of the world, students have been precluded from physically gathering to educate and learn. COVID-19 essentially paused face-to-face education in 2020. Media, governments, and higher education outlets have been reporting on widespread college student stress, isolation, loneliness, and sadness. In this context, the author conducted a current mixed methods study (online survey, online interviews) of students in advanced degree programs, like Ph.D. and Ed.D. specifically investigating isolation and sense of belonging. As a part of the study a prototype of a Canvas site was experienced by student interviewees for their reaction of this Canvas site prototype as a “third” space. Some preliminary findings of this study are presented. Doctoral students in the study affirmed the potential of LMS as a third space for community and social academic connection.

Keywords: COVID-19, learning management systems, sense of belonging, third space.

Procedia APA BibTeX Chicago EndNote Harvard JSON MLA RIS XML ISO 690 PDF Downloads 561


[1] C. Van Wingerden (2015, 2017) Institutional Review Board approved (study unpublished) LMS As A Student Employee Orientation: A Central Point of Information and Community. Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA. USA.
[2] C. Van Wingerden (2021). Doctoral students’ peer belonging in a world of social distance and isolation: Identifying needs and perceptions of Canvas as a Third Space. (in process, unpublished data). Simon Fraser University. Burnaby, BC, Canada.
[3] C. Van Wingerden, A. Lidz., AJ Barse, J. DeMark, & D. Hamiter (2017). Bring your own device (BYOD): The power of the tablet to pocket size mobile device on learning and assessment; possibilities and impacts on university faculty, students, and staff. In V.C.X. Wang (Ed.), Handbook of research on learning outcomes and opportunities in the digital age (pp 483-510). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
[4] S. Lall, & N. Singh (2020). Covid-19: Unmasking the new face of education. International Journal of Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences 11(SPL)(1), 48053. Uttarakhand, India: JK Welfare & Pharmascope Foundation.
[5] E. Dahlstrom, & D.C. Brooks (2014). ECAR Study of Faculty and Information Technology, 2014. Research report. Louisville, CO: ECAR, July 2014. Retrieved from
[6] C. Jones, & G. Healing (2010). Networks and locations for student learning. Learning Media and Technology, 35(4), 369-385.
[7] J. DeGraff (2014, June 16) Digital natives vs. digital immigrants. Huffington Post. Retrieved from
[8] M. Prensky (2012). Introduction. In M. Prensky (Ed.), From digital natives to digital wisdom: Hopeful essays for 21st century education (pp. 1-10). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin
[9] M. Prensky (2009). H. sapiens digital: From digital immigrants and digital natives to digital wisdom. Innovate, 5(3). Retrieved from
[10] D. Tapscott (1998). Growing up digital: The rise of the net generation. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
[11] J. Jobe, & M. Coles-Ritchie (2019). Creating third space through critical interactions in a high school: Examining Latin@ students’ experiences in neocolonial society. NABE Journal of Research and Practice 7(1), 142-185.
[12] Q. Wang, H. Woo, C.L. Quek, Y. Yan, M. Liu (2012). Using the Facebook group as a learning management system: An exploratory study. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43, 428-438.
[13] Q.Y. Wang (2008). A generic model for guiding the integration of ICT into teaching and learning. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 45(3), 411-419.
[14] A.H. Maslow (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370-396.
[15] T. Strayhorn (2019). College students’ sense of belonging: A key to educational success for all students, 2nd Edition. New York, London: Routledge, A Taylor & Francis Group.
[16] T. Strayhorn (2012). College students’ sense of belonging: A key to educational success for all students. New York, London: Routledge, A Taylor & Francis Group.
[17] H.K. Bhabha (1994). The location of culture. Psychology Press.
[18] H. Carlone, & A. Johnson (2012). Unpacking “culture” in cultural studies of science education: Cultural difference versus cultural production. Ethnography and Education 7(2), 151-173. Taylor & Francis Online.
[19] H. Yazdiha (2010). Cultural hybridity: Reimagining the collective. Formations: The Graduate Center Journal of Social Research, 1(1).
[20] C. Edirisinghe, R. Nakatsu, A. Cheok, J. Widodo (2011). Exploring the concept of third space within networked social media. In J.C. Anacleto, S. Fels, N. Graham, B. Kapralos, M. Saif El-Nasr, K. Stanley (Eds.), Entertainment Computing-ICEC 2011, pp. 399-402. Springer, Berlin, Heielberg.
[21] M. Baldwin, & L.A. Keefer (2019). Being here and now: The benefits of belonging in space and time. Journal of Happiness Studies, 21(8) 3069-3093.
[22] J.B. Cousins, & E. Whitmore (1998). Framing participatory evaluation. In E. Whitmore (Ed.), Understanding and practicing participatory evaluation (New directions for evaluation, No. 80, pp. 3-23). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
[23] G.D. Kuh (2001). Assessing what really matters to student learning: Inside the National Survey of Student Engagement, Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning. 33:3, 10-17, doi: 10.1080/00091380109601795.
[24] R. Gagne, L. Briggs, W. Wager (1992). Principles of instructional design (4th ed). Fort Worth, TX: HBJ College Publishers.
[25] C.J. Bonk, & C.R. Graham (2012). The handbook of blended learning: Global perspectives, local designs. John Wiley & Sons.
[26] P.L. Smith, & T.J. Ragan (2004). Instructional design. John Wiley & Sons.
[27] D.A. Kolb (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as a source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.