Essay Sample #1
Allen and Seaman (2010) state that with the abundance of learning technologies, faculty members feel at an advantage as they are able to use these technologies in their instruction and reflect on their teaching practices. However, the availability of these technologies does not guarantee the efficient and appropriate use. Therefore, the understanding faculty perceptions provide valuable insights on the motivations and obstacles to technology integration (Ertme, 2005; Knievel, 2006; Oskia, Johnson, & Bateau, 2009; Kerste, 2011). While some faculty members tend to take advantage of the available technologies, others tend to rely on traditional methods for instructional delivery. Universities thus need to understand faculty perceptions and patterns in order to use these technologies effectively (Lane, 2009, Oskia et al, 2009; Lee, Cerreto, & Lee, J. (2010). Faculty members need to demonstrate confidence in their skills when integrating technology in their traditional teaching. This means that their perceptions and experiences need to be examined in order for them to comprehend the best way to support the integration of learning technology in the classroom.
Research on CMS features and tools report that many institutions invest huge resources in developing technology infrastructures, and offering faculty members forms of e-learning technologies; professional development sessions. These efforts create opportunities and challenges for faculty and institutions to effectively use CMS in teaching and learning. Despite the given advantages of course management systems to develop e-learning materials and activities, faculty members at higher education institutions seem to be slow in embracing the different CMS tools (Vrazalic, MacGregor, & Behl, 201; Prescott, 2013). Many faculty members are still skeptical about integrating different CMS tools to become integral part of their traditional instruction. Despite the benefits of using course management systems to communicate with students outside classroom settings, some faculty members at the university in the Arab Emirates do not use it effectively. Blackboard (a course management system) is required to be used by faculty members to post their grades and enter attendance on daily basis whereas other features are not required by the university. Some faculty members tend to use Blackboard to post course syllabus, materials and make announcements to students while others opt not to use the Blackboard system at all. This mixed utilization of Blackboard is confusing to students and deprives students from varied learning and teaching experiences.
Integrating technology in lecture-based instruction or web-enhanced learning can increase the way teachers and students learn (Barker, 2002; Woods, et al. 2008). Therefore, effective implementation of technology in web-enhanced learning environment requires faculty members and administrators to collaborate to ensure productive learning experiences for students (Prescott, 2013; Lane, 2008). Administrators need to consider faculty members’ usage and perceptions of a CMS when developing training sessions for instruction and learning. This is because the experiences and patterns of usage of instructions may affect the integration of technology and students’ learning. It further ensures that faculty members are comfortable enough in the technology environment and resilient enough to adapt to the unexpected challenges that may arise in the classroom (Wingard, 2004, Lane, 2009; Li & Ranieri, 2010; Kukulska-Hulme, 2012).).
Several studies have examined the faculty use of different CMSs tools in traditional instruction using either qualitative or quantitative research methods. Very few studies adopted a mixed methods approach to investigate faculty usage and perceptions of the CMSs. Thus, this study aims to address a gap in the literature by examining the levels of usage and perceptions of faculty in a university in the United Arab Emirates using a mixed methods approach.
Chapter 1 provides a background to the mixed-methods case study on the usage and perceptions of technology integration in face-to-face instruction to supplement student learning. The chapter includes a general and specific problem statement, purpose and significance of the study and an outline of the nature of the study. The chapter will also present the research questions, the conceptual framework that guided the study, the scope, limitations, and definition of terms.
BACKGROUND OF THE PROBLEM
Integrating e-learning technologies in traditional classrooms has provided innovative ways for teachers and learners to participate in the learning process. Such technologies provide learners with more flexibility and opportunities to become active life-long learners (Sheely, 2008; Palmer & Holt, 2009). In addition, the time and physical flexibility offered by technology turns the focus from teachers to students (Morgan, 2003). Therefore, faculty members are expected to provide students with different e-learning experiences to augment their traditional teaching in higher education (McQuiggan, 2006).
Although web-enhanced learning to supplement traditional classroom experience has gained popularity, especially in the United Arab Emirates, faculty members are not utilizing the e-learning technologies in different course management systems to its maximum potential (Halawi & McCarthy, 2007). University administrators and stakeholders in higher education expect faculty members to use different e-learning features in their education despite being unaware of the faculty members’ attitudes towards technology (McPherson & Nunes, 2008). Understanding faculty perceptions on technology may help universities and other concerned parties to adopt a tailored and cohesive professional development sessions. Understanding faculty perceptions could be valuable to ensure effective uptake of web-enhanced learning experiences for students because it could have considered “the final barrier that prevents technology integration” (Ma et al. 2008, p. 411). Understanding faculty perceptions and experiences with technology as an instructional tool in traditional classroom context is further important in developing workable and effective training sessions as well as technical support (Selwyn, 2007).
Due to the rapid advancement in educational technologies, different software packages have evolved and are widely accepted, especially in higher education. Course management systems (CMS) such as Blackboard (Bb), Learning’s, Angel, Desire2Learn, and WCT among others have been widely adopted, and used in different institutions worldwide. These advanced instructional tools provide educators and administrators with robust opportunities and innovative pedagogical choices to deliver classroom materials, overcome location and time limitations and enhance classroom learning and teaching experiences. (Allen & Seaman, 2013). CMSs have become critical to higher education institutions because according to Simonson (2007) going back to traditional forms of teaching and learning without an appropriate use of a CMS has become unacceptable to faculty members and students. West, Waaddoups, and Graham (2007) posit that it is prudent to supervise how traditional universities are adopting CMSs in their teaching.
CMSs are software packages that allow university faculties to easily create, manage content, interact, communicate and teach online, blended learning or web-enhanced courses. Using such ubiquitous tools in education has continued to transform the views of teachers and learners on the importance of dynamic two-way communication instead of the static one-way communication between the two parties (Ahmed, 2010). CMSs, in academic contexts, serve different teaching and learning purposes such as increasing students’ engagement in the course, interaction and communication among course members and instructors (Morgan, 2003). Therefore, the use of CMS has increased among faculty members in higher education over the years. Morgan (2003) further states that faculty use a CMS to solve certain academic challenges, manage course content and other related tasks. This is especially observed with large classes, where there is need for supplement class materials, increased transparency and feedback, and effective communication with and among students. Another important factor for using a CMSs is that they allow educators to attend to different students’’ needs and learning styles (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners).
Essay Sample #2
The aim of the current study is to explain patterns of use associated with different CMS tools as well as factors that enhance or limit its usage. By understanding the drivers and barriers to technology integration, university administrators and IT professionals could provide guidance on ways to enhance the use of technology to augment face-to-face instruction. Ertmer (1999) emphasizes that “teachers with knowledge of barriers, as well as effective strategies to overcome them. It is expected that they will be prepared to both initiate and sustain effective technology integration practices.”
According to Bradwell (2009), universities need to redefine their missions and restate their goals to respond to the technological advances in the society. The institutions of higher learning also need to attend to the more varied and advanced needs of the students that are considered as “digital natives”. Therefore, faculty leadership can help students and foster effective teaching and learning experiences by using a wide range of technologies in their teaching and learning. Faculty members, according to Bradwell (2009, p. 19), have to “deal with a much greater range of information processing styles, cultural backgrounds, and styles of learning. As a result, the ideal way for teaching in higher education is now recognized as involving much more than lectures as the means of information provision.”
Several researchers explored the use of CMS with face-to-face instructions and the potentials of enhancing teaching and learning through this mixed delivery model (Georgina & Olsen, 2008). Allen and Seaman (2013) state that since technology is growing and expanding within higher education, faculty members need to feel empowered to use these technologies as well as reflect on their usage. Etmer (2005) states that since faculty leadership decide when and how to integrate technology, and since its availability does not guarantee effective use, their perceptions and experiences can provide valuable information on the motivations and barriers to technology implementation. Osika, Johnson, and Buteau (2009) argue that while many instructors take advantage of the new technologies and make use of them in their teaching, other faculty members tend to rely more on traditional methods of delivery. Therefore, higher institutions need to address faculty knowledge, skills, and perceptions to promote meaningful and effective use of e-learning technologies in the classroom experiences.
Web-enhanced learning has gained popularity as it is believed to be the best way to combine face -to-face instruction with different e-learning technologies. Studies support this by showing that student satisfaction with web-enhanced learning course delivery tends to appear to be greater than in online or face-to-face learning (Wingard, 2004; Vrazalic, MacGregor, & Behl, 2010). Therefore, positive experiences may motivate instructors to implement technology, while negative experiences may deter faculty members from adopting technology in their teaching. (Schoepp, 2005).
Online Learning Technology
Understanding instructors’ experiences with technology as an instructional tool is essential because instructors may continue to integrate or stop using technology in their courses if they find that integrating technology is challenging (Cooner, 2010; Donnelly, 2010). Administrators at higher education need to recognize the importance of professional development, training, technical support as well as incentives for faculty to facilitate the process of effectively implementing technology in traditional instruction (Rogers, 2002, Morgan, 2003, Murdock, 2006, Donnelly, 2010). Therefore, understanding faculty use and perceptions of technology integration in traditional instruction may benefit administrators when creating professional development programs.
Course management systems are reported to be beneficial for communication with students inside and outside the classroom. However, some faculty members at a university in the United Arab Emirates do not use Blackboard to its full potential. Although the university does not mandate the use of Blackboard in instruction, it highly encourages faculty to explore and use different tools to enhance quality the teaching and learning experience. As a result, faculty members are not consistent in the use of Blackboard and mainly used to post course content.
Although the interactive features of many courses management systems maximize students’ learning opportunities, they are not used appropriately, if used at all. Caruso (2004) and Nelson (2003) cited that several research studies on the use of technology concluded that the interactive features are the ones least used by faculty members in higher education. If higher education administrations recognize the importance to technology integration, how could faculty members be encouraged to use not only the administrative features of a course management system, but also the interactive and assessment features to ensure they are attending to different learning levels and styles (Naidu, 2003). Although literature emphasizes the importance of employing learner-centered teaching in traditional instruction, faculty members still do not use the collaborative and interactive tools of a course management system to augment their face-to-face instructions. Many studies concluded that course management systems are mainly administrative purposes such as posting course syllabus, materials and teachers’ notes (Morgan, 2003; Nelson, 2003; Silverstein, 2006).
Future of E-learning Technology
Research, however, revealed interesting findings with regard to the use of the administrative features of a course management system. First, course content organization has been improved in terms of content and organization. This led instructors to introduce clear goals, activities and expectations to students. On the other hand, using the administrative feature of a course management system poses a challenge to faculty pertaining students’ absenteeism. That is to say, if the course materials are post and available for students, students might feel that they do not need the face-to-face class session (Jones, Harmon & Lowther, 2002). Thus, the faculty members might feel that they are losing control and might consider doing away with this administrative feature.
Several studies have reported different reasons for the lack of proper use of course management systems such as lack of financial or administrative incentive, training, negative attitudes and perceptions, user characteristics, course characteristics, technological and organizational considerations. These are determining factors for the underutilization of a course management system tools (Jackowski & Akroyd, 2010; Lee, Cerreto & Lee, 2010). Therefore, technological, individual, and institutional factors should be considered when examining the adopting of technology in traditional instructions (Neyland, 2011).
To this end, the aim of the study is to examine the faculty use of Blackboard- a course management system (CMS) in their face-to-face instruction. The study aims to identify patterns of use and which tools are used more frequently. Faculty perceptions and beliefs are also important as they drive and motivate faculty to adopt technology in their teaching. As a result, faculty perceptions towards the use of technology to enhance traditional teaching will be explored. Factors that encourage or limit faculty use will also be viewed to help administrators cater for different attitudes, perceptions, and obstacles when they develop training sessions for their faculty.
The use of technology in higher education is debatable as several studies cited different findings. The controversies that appeared in the literature are related to how, when, why, and who uses technology (Paloff & Pratt, 2003; Maeroff, 2003, Ko & Rossen, 2001). There is no enough research especially in the Gulf region on how and why faculty use of technology in higher education. Since faculty members in higher education are considered scholars in their field, they make informed decisions to adopt or reject technology in their teaching. The study is, therefore, interested in seeking more insights pertaining to faculty perceptions and actual use of technology as well as the factors that determine their level of adoption.
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