Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Faculty Perceptions of a CMS

As online learning has evolved, so have the choices involved in the creation and delivery of instruction. With each new generation, more and more features are being added to the online learning repertoire and it is the responsibility of individual instructors to select the features that will best facilitate learning. Course Management Systems (CMS) provide an integrated approach to developing courses and teaching using web-based technologies. Course management software allows students and faculty access to several communication features and other benefits through one source. Harrington, Staffo, and Wright (2006) noted an increased interest in the effectiveness of course management systems and suggested that the proliferation of course management systems in higher education indicates that more research on their effectiveness is required.

Elgort (2005) found that the rate of adoption of online teaching and learning was, in part, facilitated by the institution’s introduction of a CMS because it appeared to reduce the learning curve for non-technologically-inclined instructors. Mitchell, Clayton, Gower, Barr, and Bright (2005) also found that the use of course management systems such as Blackboard, WebCT and Moodle highly correlated with faculty’s levels of adoption of online teaching and learning. These faculty also tended to rate the CMS as being valuable or very valuable, where non-adopters did not value the application highly.

Although CMS tools have become more available to faculty, the adoption process has not always gone smoothly (Kilmon & Fagan, 2007). For example, “assisting faculty to integrate technology into instruction” was identified by respondents to the Campus Computing Project survey as the number one IT issue affecting their institutions from 2000 through 2003, when network and data security overtook the top position (Hartman, Dziuban, & Brophy-Ellison, 2007). Even in cases where institutional support is high, two separate studies, conducted by Hutchins (2001) and Johnson and Howell (2005) noted that faculty attitudes may be hard to change to meet the demands of the new dynamic, and seem to suggest that a study of faculty attitudes should be a required portion of any research on the effectiveness of course management systems. Dugas (2005) found that the foremost reason for adopting or not adopting the course management system was the faculty member’s perception of the relative advantage of the software.

In the minds of many early adopters is an underlying fear about the use and applications of new technologies for teaching practices. Associated with this fear is the impact or the possible fallout of unsuccessful attempts at applying the technology. Thus, negative or positive perceptions remain a critical component in the behavior to adopt a technological innovation.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Useful Tips and Tools to Research the Deep Web

Alisa Miller's recently wrote on Online College Blog that "experts say that typical search engines like Yahoo! and Google only pick up about 1% of the information available on the Internet. The rest of that information is considered to be hidden in the deep web, also referred to as the invisible web." According to, a study by Bright Planet indicates that the deep web is estimated to be up to 550 times larger than the 'surface web' accessible through traditional search engines and over 200,000 database-driven websites are affected by the problem.

Alisa provides a list of 100 tips and tools to help get the most out of searching the Internet. I have regularly suggested to my students that they use a meta-search engine such as Dogpile or Metacrawler. This is Alisa's first suggestion. She provides a list of 12 different engines to try. UC-Berkley in Finding Information on the Internet: A Tutorial suggests that you create your own custom search engine. Google Custom Search Engines (CSEs) focus on selected websites within the Google database. They are easy to make at Google Coop. You will need a Google account or Gmail account. Make specialized search engines instead of using giant meta-searchers or huge search engine databases. Use them to focus on pages on a subject. For more details, see their Getting Started Creating a Custom Search Engine (PDF).

Of course, as a Ph.D. student, I've found that using specialized databases such as ProQuest, EBSCOhost, and more to be helpful. One of my favorite (fee charged) database is
Questia where you can not only access journal, magazine, and newspaper articles but also access whole books.

Unfortunately, many of the databases are just that--fee based. However, Google has worked with many publishers to gain access to some material that wouldn't ordinarily be accessible to search spiders because it is locked behind subscription barriers. This information is available through Google Scholar. Google also offers Google Books. If you want to check out a book before you buy, this is the way. One drawback--in order to comply with copyright laws, Google can't display the whole book. Whole sections of the book will be unavailable. Joel at BizzNTech provided 15 Handy Google Search Tricks.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Changes in the New Year

I am currently in the throes of packing to move to Fayetteville, NC, where I will start my new job as Instructional Designer at Fayetteville Technical Community College on January 5. I am excited about the new possibilities! I will be working on a new project to develop 3-D animated learning objects and to create an online learning objects repository.

I've received comments back from my mentor on Chapters 1 & 2 of my dissertation. I've created a survey instrument based on Roger's diffusion of innovations theory which includes questions on the perceived attributes of the course management system, organizational support, and channels of communication (specifically faculty development opportunities). I hope to be able to complete my pilot study in the next couple of months.