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Students’ Needs and Concerns: Experiences From
A Learning Management System
Mas Nida Md. Khambari, Priscilla Moses, Rohoullah Khodaband,
Wan Zah Wan Ali, Wong Su Luan, Ahmad Fauzi Mohd. Ayub
Faculty of Educational Studies
Universiti Putra Malaysia
Online learning has been introduced and brought into implementation in many institutions of higher
learning nationwide. Realising the plethora blast of online learning in many institutions, the authors find it
significant to study about the Learning Management System (LMS) that has been implemented in
Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM). Since the LMS is still in its infancy stage in UPM, it is imperative to
study the needs and concerns of the ends users in order to accelerate the diffusion of such new
innovation. The respondents of this study were four undergraduate students who had experiences using
the LMS. This case study which is qualitative in nature, employs a structured open-ended protocol
interview as a means to seek rich and valuable data, as well as to gauge accurate information and other
relevant matters that relate to the respondents’ experiences. Emerging themes from the interview suggest
that students are in need of having their own permanent profile in the LMS, file submission notifier,
attractive layouts and embedded widgets, and interactive multipurpose forum. It is believed that an LMS
that is tailored to the needs and concerns of the intended adopters who are mainly students, is much
easier to be diffused and adopted.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has dominated the field of education ever since it was
introduced at all education level, from primary schools to higher education institutions. ICT has scaffolded
the process of conveying knowledge, enhancing the quality of education. Integrating and incorporating
ICT into the education system is not a simple task. It requires much efforts to realise the full potential of
innovative teaching-learning technologies.
An overview of the landscape of instructional technology field reveals innovations that focus on the
diffusion and adoption process in many researches (Nor Aziah Alias & Ahmad Marzuki Zainuddin, 2005).
Non utilisation of educational technology by academicians is not an uncommon scenario in many
institutions. Vice versa, there are also scenes where academicians diffused the two way teaching-learning
technology namely the online or web based learning, but students did not actively participate in the
technology related innovation. Recently, learning management system (LMS) has been one of the most
popular web based learning system being implemented in higher education institutions. Many public and
private universities all over Malaysia have their own LMS. In order to accelerate the rate of adoption and
ensure full utilisation of an innovation, the LMS, before being diffused, therefore, should take into account
the antecedents that may contribute towards the adoption of a technology pertinent innovation.
This paper attempts to gain some insights into how undergraduate students use an LMS at the Faculty of
Educational Studies (FPP), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM). FPP is one of the seven faculties in UPM
that have their own LMS apart from PutraLMS, an LMS developed by the Center for Academic
Development (CADe), UPM. Named FPPLMS, the first phase of LMS was firstly introduced in FPP in
early 2007 while the second phase in July 2007. Primarily, this paper attempts to gauge in depth
information about the needs of students as the LMS adopters, as well as their concerns from using the
LMS. These may provide valuable input for the LMS developer to improvise, enhance and make efficient
the current LMS as it may facilitate the acceleration of adoption rate among students.
The Learning Management System
For many years, ICT has been used and integrated in the teaching-learning process in higher education
institutions and it eventually expanded enormously with the development of the web. Over the years, the
rapid advances that the Internet has to offer had opened the gateway wide in support of online learning.
Consequently, a web based online learning was introduced and brought into implementation in many
institutions nationwide. There are a number of web based tools used to provide online services namely e-
mail, discussions, conferences or lectures, forums, informal private or public conversations and specially
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constructed electronic workspaces using software (Leask & Younie, 2001). The LMS has been widely
adopted and used in many higher education institutions in Malaysia.
The LMS, also known as Virtual Learning Environment or Course Management System, is “a set of tools
and a framework that allows the relatively easy creation of online course content and the subsequent
teaching and management of that course including various interactions with students taking the course”
(Educause, 2003, p. 1). In essence, an LMS is a high level web based technology solution for planning,
conveying and managing a myriad of learning events within an organisation such as online, virtual
classroom and instructor-led courses that can assess a specific learning process (Nor Aziah Alias &
Ahmad Marzuki Zainuddin, 2005; Greenberg, 2002). A typical LMS provides an instructor or moderator to
prepare and deliver content, monitor participation by students, as well as assess student’s performance
online. The LMS provides interactive features to the students. As such, threaded discussions, video
conferencing, and forums for discussion per se are the main features of an LMS. The goal of an LMS is to
manage learners such as to keep track of students’ progress and performance. The LMS is not just
viewed as an instructional trend, but rather, it benefits the adopters as well. As a web based learning tool,
the LMS facilitates “any time, any place, any pace” access to learning content and management.
A recent study by Nor Aziah Alias and Ahmad Marzuki Zainuddin (2005) was carried out to determine the
concerns of lecturers in International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) regarding the use of LMS. The
study found that the benefits LMS has brought to teachers include time saving, organisation of lecture
materials, provision of good and effective ways to evaluate students, enhancement of interaction between
lecturers and students and provision of extra resources for lecturers. Students gain benefits as well
through provision of easy access to the subject material, enhancement of students’ abilities to use
technology, increment in interaction between students and lecturers and provision of more educational
resources. Most importantly, the MitechPlus LMS at the IIUM that consists of portfolio management,
learning resources and learning portal system has the potential to foster collaborative work and
community building among members of the institution.
According to Harrington, Gordon and Schibik (2004), the benefits to be realised from adopting an LMS
are many. First, the organisation could meet the immediate demands for new online courses. Second, the
organisational mission could be furthered by providing a level of quality in its course development that
would position the organisation as a leader in its field. Third, the organisation as a whole could become
part of the learning process, which could have positive implications on organisational culture. Finally, the
change process for adopting new technologies could be eased by having recommendations to guide
adoption. (Harrington, Gordon & Schibik, 2004).
Some new technologies may be diffused easily while some take longer time to be accepted by members
of a community. Guiding model is crucial to facilitate an efficient innovation diffusion. In Rogers’ theory,
five vital attributes were proposed to serve as a guiding model in the process of innovation diffusion
(Rogers, 1995). It is the Perceived Attributes of Innovation (Rogers, 1995) that comprises of relative
advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability, and observability. These attributes serve to act as
indicators of future rates of adoption. However, it was accentuated by Rogers that it is not compulsory for
an innovation to posses all the five attributes.
Relative advantage represents the extend to which the innovation is perceived as being better that the
previous idea that it replaces (Rogers, 1995). Relative advantage is often emphasised by a crisis, which
actually initiates a person to adopt an innovation. Compatibility refers to the congruence of the innovation
with past experience or previous innovations, values and needs of adopters. An innovation which is
compatible to the perceived needs and values of intended adopters is more likely to be adopted.
Complexity, as described by Rogers, an innovation falls in the complexity-simplicity continuum.
Therefore, an innovation that is not complex and has a perceived ease of use by the intended adopters
has a higher rate of adoption. Innovations that are trialable have a better chance of adoption, and are
usually undergone or tried by early adopters. The last attribute, observability, pertains to the intended
adopter’s ability to realise and recognise the innovations used by others.
In this study, the authors would like to emphasise on the first Perceived Attribute of Innovation which is
the relative advantage. As such, relative advantage includes the degree of economic profitability, low
initial cost, lower perceived risk, decrease in discomfort, savings in time and effort, immediacy of the
reward and etc. Students’ needs and concerns from their experiences of using LMS were explored in this
study so as to sought valuable information to fulfil the relative advantage if an innovation. According to
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Rogers, the receivers’ perceptions of an inovation affect its rate of adoption. It is believed that an
innovation that brings benefit towards its adopters are more likely to be adopted. Therefore, the authors
find it is significant to explore the potential adopters’ needs and concerns, as their views can be taken into
consideration to make the LMS better diffused.
Since the LMS at the Faculty of Educational Studies, UPM is still at the early stage, only limited
evaluation was conducted on the new innovation. Therefore, the authors found it significant to conduct a
preliminary needs analylsis study to collect information about the LMS since it was introduced, and its
adopters’ views and perspectives.
The first author of this paper conducted a focus group interview with undergraduate students from the
Faculty of Educational Studies, UPM who have experiences using the LMS. The respondents of this study
are four second year undergraduate students from the Bachelor of Education in Agriculture Science
programme of study. There are two males and two females.
Face-to-face interviews were conducted so that the authors can also take note of non-verbal information
that may give added meaning. In order to seek rich and valuable findings, the interview was conducted in
an open-ended protocol. Spontaneously generated probes were also attempted in order to investigate
what is in the subject’s mind (Patton, 1990). Following Merriam’s (1988) suggestion, there are three
classifications of interviews: structures interview, semi-structured interview and unstructured interview.
The authors employed structured interview as a means to gauge accurate information such as subject’s
experience and other relevant matters that are related to the respondents.
The interview was conducted in Bahasa Melayu and was recorded using the Sony SOK-NWD-B103F(B)
mp3 player and recorder. This allowed the researcher to keep a verbatim record of the interview that
could be accessed at any time as to facilitate the interview transcribe process. The questions that were
asked are as follows:
1. How do you perceive Learning Management System?
2. What do you know about the LMS?
3. Do you like it? Why?
4. How do you benefit from using the LMS?
5. Is the LMS helpful for your learning?
6. Are you a frequent user of LMS? If yes, what are the features that you like in the LMS?
7. Do you the LMS complex to use?
8. In your point of view, what strategies can be taken to widen the use of the LMS among students?
9. What elements would you like the LMS to have?
10. What do you expect from the LMS in the future?
The interviews lasted for forty minutes and were transcribed in Bahasa Melayu and later translated into
English. The transcripts were read and reread as a means to familiarise with the data (Ary et. al., 2006).
After familiarisation, the next step is coding and recoding of data. Words, phrases, sentences and
behavior patterns or events that seem to appear repeatedly were sorted out into major and minor
categories. The researcher inductively analysed the emerging themes and drew conclusions. The themes
were then developed into a coding system related to the research question. The researcher sought the
relationships amongst the codes and then categorised it into themes and sub-themes before the ultimate
reporting. The consequences of the qualitative data are reported discretely in the findings.
Findings and Discussions
Findings of the interviews conducted by the first author of this study will be discussed subsequently in this
section. Respondents of the focus group interview are undergraduates who have experiences in using
the FPPLMS for a periode of one semester. There were male and female students, and their age varied
from 22 to 25 years old. The four respondents are coded R1, R2, R3 and R4.
From the interview, it was found that students used the LMS to download notes prepared by the lecturer
as well as to check their assignments and examination results online (Diagram 1). As such, one student
commented, “We can get all information just by the click of a button”. Notes can be uploaded and
downloaded via FPPLMS..[i can also] check new results released as well as fresh lecture notes.” (Student
Focus Group Interview, R3).
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Diagram 1: Example of Assignment and Examination Marks Board
This shows that the main feature of the FPPLMS which is the notes is frequently used by the adopters.
Students even feel enthusiastic that the faculty is keeping up with the advances of technology as one of
them commented, “I feel like the faculty is moving towards the technology reform. It is great! Since
FPPLMS is an Internet based learning, it can be accessed anywhere at any time even when I was at
home, I can always update myself with the latest information posted on FPPLMS.” (Student Focus Group
Respondents noted that the FPPLMS is an online portal where they can interact freely with lecturers,
friends and any other registered users. Among their views are “... I can also make new friends on
FPPLMS. Once logged in, I can check registered users on FPPLMS. We can send messages to other
users whether they are online or offline. I made new friends there [FPPLMS].” (Student Focus Group
Interview, R4) and “I can interact with the lecturer, exchange opinions and ideas with seniors. I can get
valuable tips that are very helpful for my learning.” (Student Focus Group Interview, R2).
Furthermore, students reported that shy students have an advantage as they can express their feelings in
the FPPLMS without their identity being compromised. They can appear anonymous, thus, it is easier for
shy students to share their problems and ideas on FPPLMS. The respondent commented, “I don’t have
to see [the lecturer]. Students always shy away from the lecturers. But on FPPLMS, we can use bogus
names so that people won’t know us. It is easier to share our problems with the lecturer.” (Student Focus
Group Interview, R4).
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Diagram 2: Active Registering Users at the LMS
Diagram 3: Example of Instant Messaging at the LMS
In the other hand, apart from using the LMS for the aforementioned purposes, there are many needs and
concerns voiced by the respondents based on their experiences of using such LMS. Emerging themes
from the interview suggest that students are in need of having their own permanent profile in the LMS, file
submission notifier, attractive layouts and embedded widgets, and interactive multipurpose forum (Table
Table 1: Emerging themes of students’ needs and concerns from the LMS
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Themes Current LMS/Problems Needs/Concerns
• Account for each student is only • Need of having permanent profile that
created for each course enrollment. can be used continually for every
• Account eligible for one semester. semester.
New account will be created for new • Needs more flexibility to personalise
semester. and customise their own account or
• Each enrolled student has their webpage.
personal account where they can • Would like to be able to leave
upload a photo and update limited testimonials and photo comments on
personal information (name, location, each others’ profile.
• Students cannot access the LMS
during semester breaks because they
had completed the course.
• Students are required to submit their • Not confirmed if assignments has been
assignments by uploading the files succesfully uploaded onto the LMS.
onto the LMS. • Would like to have notification mail
• Notification response not displayed. sent to e-mail upon successful
• Worried if assignments not submission of assignments.
• No embedded widgets. • Need of having colourful background,
graphics and allows widgets
embedding such as music player,
music videos, flash, games and etc.
embedded onto the LMS.
• LMS needs to include more useful
links to educational related websites
and online journals.
Few topics and participation in forum. Need of having interesting topic to be
discussed in forum that can trigger
students’ participation (e.g.: current
issues, examination tips, motivational
• Needs online counsellor where they
can always consult and seek advise.
• Would like to have forums where they
can advertise products and services as
well as getting them from the forum.
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Diagram 4: Example of Course Forum at the LMS
Diagram 5: Example of Course Report Log at the LMS
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Diagram 6: Example of Course Synopsis at the LMS
It is believed that an LMS that is tailored to the needs and concerns of the intended adopters who are
mainly students, is much easier to be diffused and adopted. This is supported by Rogers (1995) that
indicated an innovation that has a relative advantage towards the potential adopters is much easier to be
adopted. Consequently, the higher the relative advantage of an innovation, the rate of adoption will
Four major themes emerged from the interviews in relation to the needs and concerns of students from
the LMS namely the need of having their own permanent profile in the LMS, file submission notifier,
attractive layouts and embedded widgets, and interactive multipurpose forum.
This results confirmed studies done by Boyd (2003 & 2007) who found that teenagers like social
networking websites such as Friendster and MySpace because they are based on profiles. It is a form of
individual homepage which offers a description of each member such as demographic details, interests,
hobbies, people they would like to meet, share photographs and videos (Boyd, 2007). On social
networking sites, users are free to change their profile backgrounds, add video and images, change the
colour of the text and leave comments. This feature allows user to personalise their own homepage.
Therefore, an LMS that could provide permanent profile accounts would attract more students to use it.
Students perceived the FPPLMS as a user friendly portal if they could use it as a social networking site.
Consequently, it ensures participation in the LMS from a wider range of students.
On the other hand, the interviews also revealed that there were many exciting and positive impacts of
using the LMS in the learning environments. As such, students have frequently used the LMS to
download notes, check current marks, and connect with lecturers and friends via instant messaging at the
It should be noted that this is a preliminary study and the LMS in the Faculty of Educational Studies, UPM
is still in its infancy. However, suitable intervention programme may be carried out as a means to ensure
the spread and sustainability of this LMS in the future. This exploratory research has paved the way for a
more in depth study about LMS as a new innovation in higher education institutions. Many exciting areas
on the LMS can be explored quantitatively or qualitatively to contribute to the body of knowledge on LMS.
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