FACULTY USE AND PERCEPTIONS OF A COURSE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM - Essay Example

CHAPTER 1

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ABSTRACT

Despite the wide use of course management systems (CMS) in university teaching, research on e-learning suggests that it has not been fully utilized in traditional instruction. This study uses a mixed-methods approach to investigate how faculty members at a university in the United Arab Emirates use and perceive the integration of the Blackboard-CMS- in lecture-based instruction. Three instruments will be used to collect and analyse data. The actual use of a CMS tools will be collected using the automated logs of the software and individual and focus groups interviews will be used to gain more insights and seek clarification pertaining to faculty use and perceptions as well as factors that affect the integration of technology in traditional instruction. The main focus of the study is on a faculty member as a practitioner whose decisions underpin effective integration of technology. The results of the study will inform policy makers at the university to develop effective professional development sessions pertaining to curriculum and technology integration, and technology standards, and provide effective and adequate technical support. 

Learning management system

INTRODUCTION

There exists considerable research touching on when, how, and what educational technologies are used in enhancing the quality of teaching and education. Course management systems (CMS) could be used effectively to supplement lecture-based instruction in many ways. Therefore, it is necessary to investigate the factors that encourage or limit faculty adoption of the CMSs to enhance the quality of learning for the benefit of the students. 

The use of different course management systems (CMSs) has become popular in many universities across United Arab Emirates as a means of facilitating and enhancing teaching and learning. Notably, many higher education institutions are using them to provide support to different academic programs that are accessible to faculty members and students. Different universities in the United Arab Emirates use diverse course management system tools to combine face to face instruction with different educational technology tools. While the university under study is considered one most prolific university in the country that has invested in educational technologies, the use of such technologies for teaching and learning has not been utilized to its full potential. The aim of the study is to reveal patterns of use of different CMS features to supplement face-to-face instruction, faculty perceptions, and factors that enhance or inhibit the integration of technology in traditional instruction.

Although the University of Sharjah is a lecture-based campus, higher administration encourages faculty members to vary their teaching methods. This intended to accommodate different students’ needs. The university offers large lecture courses which happen to be poor learning settings as students are not engaged actively in their learning. Merrill (2002) states that although lecture halls could be good for presenting new ideas and face -to –face interactions with students, faculty members have to supplement their lectures with technology to elevate student engagement in the learning process. The decision to integrate technology in traditional teaching could be daunting to some faculty members because it involves considerable time to redesign the course content, structure, materials, assessment, and above all to learn how to use the technology tools effectively (Nicolle & Lou, 2008). The literature reviewed pertaining to the integration of technology highlighted its positive effect on students’ learning as it presents different world view to them. Therefore, although technology integration is time-consuming and costs expensive, it will eventually pay off with positive implications to the involved stakeholders (Harely, Henke & Maher, 2003; Ertmer, 2005, Al-Shboul, 2011). 

What is a learning management system

Today, students are considered as digital natives as they are born and raised in an interactive video-gaming world. This denotes a need to incorporate interactive learning experiences in their formal studies to stimulate and engage students who may otherwise be bored with the subject matter (Ahmed, 2010). Therefore, higher institutions are challenged to provide adequate learning environment to engage students who are considered as digital natives. Much of the faculty members being “digital migrants” are forced to address these emerging needs (Allen & Seaman, 2013). Hence, there is a concern of how faculty could use e-learning technologies in traditional instruction to attend to students’ needs and learning styles. Consequently, higher education institutions need to consider faculty usage and perceptions of technology and how these beliefs affect effective technology integration (Bennett & March, 2002). 

Internet-based course management systems (CMS) are e-learning technologies that support different forms of learning such as distance learning, hybrid, and face to face. A course management system can be defined as “a self-contained webpage with embedded instructional tools that permit faculty to organize academic content and engage students in their leaning.” (Gautreau, 2011, p. 2). Including various CMS features allows better teaching and learning experiences. Although CMSs offer a variety of teaching and learning tools they are not used to their fullest capacity by faculty members despite universities investing huge amounts of money in these technologies(Dahlstrom, Brooks, & Bichsel, 2014). Halawi and  McCarthy (2007) suggest effective integration of technology is based on two main factors: the availability of e-learning technologies and how faculty members embrace and use them. The researchers opine that faculty members mostly use the administrative tools of a CMS to supplement their lectures while interactive and synchronous features such as forms, online chats, wikis and blogs are rarely used. Jaschik and Lederman (2014) conducted a quantitative study using a survey to examine faculty attitudes toward integrating a CMS in their teaching. The majority of the participants made use of the CMSs in their courses but the use was limited to the managerial and administrative level only such as posting course syllabus (78%), recording grades (58%), communicate with students through emails and announcements (52%). Only 20% reported that they used the CMS multimedia feature to record lectures. 

Open source learning management system

The rapid and constant change in communication and learning technologies challenges higher education institutions to respond to the demands of their students (digital natives). These new demands, according to Georgina & Olson (2008), include reshaping, re-designing and re-visioning teaching and learning methods. This assumption also necessitates that faculty has to be able to develop students’ knowledge and skills through integrating technology to be effectively used in the learners’ professional and personal lives. Therefore, faculty members have to familiarize with these technologies and be robust enough to adapt to the constant changes and unexpected challenges they might encounter during teaching (Randeree, 2008; Woods et al., 2004, Hoskins, 2010, Davies, 2011; Buabeng-Andoh, 2012   Wang et al., 2013).

Course management systems (CMSs) provide a way for instructors who do not have web design skills to easily create and design their own courses. While these tools were initially developed for online instruction, their use to augment traditional teaching is now considered valuable. In that sense, faculty members can use learning technologies efficiently to manage a wealth of information. Bradwell (2009, p. 19) suggested that faculties have to “deal with a much greater range of information processing styles, cultural backgrounds, and styles of learning. As a result, the ideal for teaching in higher education is now recognized to involve much more than lectures as the means of information provision.”