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.

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