Lecturers' Perceptions of the Use of Learning Management Systems: A Case Study in Open Distance Learning

Lecturers' Perceptions of the Use of Learning Management Systems: A Case Study in Open Distance Learning

Faiza Gani, Geesje van den Berg
DOI: 10.4018/IJWLTT.2019070102
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Learning management systems (LMSs) provide possibilities to facilitate online teaching and learning; to create communities of inquiry, support dialogue and collaborative learning; and reduce students' sense of disconnectedness in distance learning. Nevertheless, studies show that LMSs are often under-utilized. This article reports on lecturers' perceptions of the use of an LMS in an open distance learning (ODL) institution in South Africa. The authors used a phenomenological case study and followed a qualitative approach. Interviews were conducted with ten lecturers from eight academic departments. The results reveal that participants used the LMS mainly for administration and to a lesser extent for teaching and learning, with a limited presence of a community of inquiry. The challenges reported by interviewees had poor access to the internet, a lack of skills, fear, and workload. The study suggests that if lecturers used the LMS for teaching and learning, it will yield many benefits for students.
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A number of factors impede the successful integration of ICTs for online learning in South Africa. These include the digital divide, where a noteworthy number of students enter university without having been exposed to ICTs. This results in various ICT literacy levels among students (Brown, 2012; Bosch, 2017). Access to hardware such as computers and other devices is furthermore a challenge in South Africa as the country is characterized by an uneven distribution of technology (Baijnath, 2013). Coupling this is limited access to the internet in some parts of the country (Bosch, 2017). Johnson et al. (2013) as cited in Ng’ambi, Brown, Bozalek & Gachago (2016) report several challenges facing higher education. These include a shortage of training for lecturers, use of technology that does not improve learning outcomes, barriers within the institution, which impacts on the use of technologies and the need for a mind shift among academics to acknowledge challenges related to traditional teaching and learning methods. Ng’ambi et al. (2016) report that these challenges are relevant to the South African context as well.

Despite these challenges the university where the research was conducted encourages the use of ICTs, made predominantly possible through the institutional LMS. The university caters for a diverse profile of students. As a result, students enter the university with varying levels of preparedness as is typical of the South African context (Ng’ambi et al., 2016). The university offers various support services for students, including support for technology enhanced learning. Students can also make use of computers with internet access at regional centres located around the country. Academics have at their disposal training for professional development. With specific reference to the use of ICT, training is available which demonstrates how the various tools within the LMS can be used for teaching and learning. As the institution is ODL in nature, students primarily have contact with the university, through telephone, e-mail and the LMS.

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