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  1. 1. 2nd International Malaysian Educational Technology Convention 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 Abstract 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. Introduction 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
  2. 2. 2nd International Malaysian Educational Technology Convention 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). Theoretical Framework 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 100
  3. 3. 2nd International Malaysian Educational Technology Convention 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. Methodology 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). 101
  4. 4. 2nd International Malaysian Educational Technology Convention 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 Interview, R2). 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). 102
  5. 5. 2nd International Malaysian Educational Technology Convention 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 1). Table 1: Emerging themes of students’ needs and concerns from the LMS 103
  6. 6. 2nd International Malaysian Educational Technology Convention 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. Profile 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. course etc.) • 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 File submission assignments by uploading the files succesfully uploaded onto the LMS. onto the LMS. • Would like to have notification mail notifier • Notification response not displayed. sent to e-mail upon successful • Worried if assignments not submission of assignments. successfully uploaded. • No embedded widgets. • Need of having colourful background, Attractive layouts and embedded graphics and allows widgets embedding such as music player, widgets music videos, flash, games and etc. embedded onto the LMS. • LMS needs to include more useful links to educational related websites and online journals. • • Interactive multipurpose 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 forum encouragement) • 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. 104
  7. 7. 2nd International Malaysian Educational Technology Convention Diagram 4: Example of Course Forum at the LMS Diagram 5: Example of Course Report Log at the LMS 105
  8. 8. 2nd International Malaysian Educational Technology Convention 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 increase. Conclusion 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 LMS. 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. References 106
  9. 9. 2nd International Malaysian Educational Technology Convention Ary, D., Jacobs, L.C., Razavieh, A. & Sorensen, C. (2006). Introduction to Research in Education. (7th ed.). Canada: Thomas Wadsworth. Boyd, D. (2003). Reflections on Friendster, Trust and Intimacy. Ubiquitous Computing, Workshop application for the Intimate Ubiquitous Computing Workshop. Seattle, WA, October 12−15, 2003. Boyd, D. (2007). Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Learning – Youth, Identity, and Digital Media Volume (ed. David Buckingham). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Educause. (2003). Course management systems. Retrieved September 2008, from http://www.educause. edu/LibraryDetailPage/666?ID=DEC0302. Greenberg, L. (2002). LMS and LCMS: What's the Difference? Learning Circuits. ASTD's Source for e- Learning. Retrieved September 3rd, 2008 from http://www.learningcircuits.org/NR/exeres/ 72E3F68C-4047-4379-8454-2B88C9D38FC5.htm Harrington, C.F., Gordon, S.A. & Schibik, T.J. (2004). Course management system utilisation and implications for practice: A national survey of department chairpersons. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 7(4). Retrieved September 12, 2008 from http://www.westga. edu/ ~distance/ojdla/winter74/harrington74.htm Leask, M. & Younie, S. (2001). Building on-line communities for teachers: issues emerging from research. In Leask, M. Issues in Teaching Using ICT. Routledge Falmer: London and New York. Merriam, S.B. (1988). Case Study Research in Education: A Qualitative Approach. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Nor Aziah Alias & Ahmad Marzuki Zainuddin (2005). Innovation for Better teaching and Learning: Adopting the Learning Management System. Malaysia Online Journal of Instructional Technology, 2(2) pp. 27–40. Patton, M.Q. (1980). Qualitative Research Methods. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage. Rogers, E.M. (1995). Diffusion of Innovations 4th Ed. New York: Free Press. 107