I’ve just been playing with Articulate Storyline. This software really is the best thing since sliced bread, I love it. This little module allows you to help a character with bicycle trouble.Read More
You can now embed sound in a Prezi. This is an excellent development. I’ve updated my final MSc reflection with audio.
Institutional elearning has become synonymous with Learning Management Systems (LMSs). eLearning practitioners can draw upon a significant body of well researched pedagogy to guide teaching and learning mediated via these LMSs. However many of the pedagogical considerations that arise are moot points without actual LMS implementation, a domain which is under researched. This case study addresses the implementation of the LMS Moodle in a secondary school and provides details of the practical steps involved. The case study also works towards the goal of providing practitioners with theoretical frameworks that can guide LMS implementation. In this paper technology acceptance and innovation diffusion, widely researched in other domains as key models are discussed, and their value illustrated.
Keywords: Technology Acceptance Model (TAM); Diffusion of Innovation (DOI); Learning Management System (LMS)
Moodle is a Learning Management System (LMS) with 67,158 registered sites, in 216 countries offering 6,192,363 courses (Moodle.org: Moodle Statistics n.d.). The adoption rate is significant but there is little research about technology acceptance in this context (Sánchez & Hueros 2010). The case study presented in this paper outlines the implementation of the LMS Moodle in a secondary school in Dublin, Ireland. Moodle is an Information Technology (IT) system but also an innovation; the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) and the theory of the Diffusion of Innovations (DOI) are the models which provide the theoretical framework for the research, and they are outlined in the next section. This is followed by a description of the preparation of Moodle for school use, and the methods employed to conduct the research. The implementation from the TAM and DOI perspective is then analysed before conclusions are drawn. Key recommendations arising from the models and procedural steps are outlined in the conclusion.
Models that Guide the Implementation
Technology Acceptance Model (TAM)
One perspective that can be put forward is that introducing an LMS to a school is analogous to an IT implementation, justifying the selection of the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM). TAM states that perceived ease of use (PEOU) and perceived usefulness (PU) inform behavioural intention, thus actual behaviour (Davis 1989). However the impact of PEOU is debated in the literature. Davis, Bagozzi, & Warshaw (1989) find that behavioural intention is influenced to a greater degree by PU than PEOU. Chau (1996) finds that it has no effect on behavioural intention. Venkatesh (1999) compares two groups engaged in IT training finding increased behavioural intentions in the group with higher PEOU. TAM has been extended to incorporate additional dimensions including social influence and facilitating conditions (Venkatesh & Davis 2000; Venkatesh et al. 2003). The TAM dimensions that guide this implementation of Moodle are: perceived ease of use, perceived usefulness, social influence and facilitating conditions.
Theory of the Diffusion of Innovations (DOI)
Another perspective is that the implementation of an LMS is the diffusion of a technological innovation (Keller 2005). Innovation diffusion is a five stage decision process with the dimensions of: knowledge, persuasion, decision, implementation and confirmation (Rogers 2003). The decision to adopt or reject an innovation occurs at the persuasion stage and is directly affected by relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability and observability (Keller 2005; Rogers 2003). Later research supports the validity of these dimensions (Corrigan 2012; Lee, Hsieh, & Hsu 2011; Duan et al. 2010; Sahin & Thompson 2006). Lee, Hsieh, & Hsu (2011) have also researched the effect of these dimensions in the context of PU and PEOU, and found that they have a significant impact on behavioural intention.
If the innovation makes life easier, fits with one’s world view, is easy to use, offers a tangible benefit and the opportunity to trial exists then the chance of adoption is higher (Keller 2005). The DOI dimensions that guide this implementation of Moodle are: relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability and observability.
Preparing Moodle for School Use
Moodle files are available at Moodle.org and need to be installed on a webserver. A database and a folder called Moodledata that manage the site files are then created. The school server had no database creation application and the profile provided was not permitted to install one. IT support was outsourced to a third party, which revealed another issue. The server was configured to prevent access from outside the school network and even a successful install of Moodle would be inaccessible. IT support worried that opening access might potentially give nefarious external forces access to confidential school data. Instead an external hosting company, Hosting Ireland was selected. A plugin called Softaculous on their graphical user interface (GUI) installed Moodle in a few clicks and access was provided via a URL which solved the problem.
Introducing Moodle to Teachers and Training
Moodle was introduced at the teachers’ regular Wednesday afternoon meeting and planning session. Fourteen interested teachers were registered on Moodle. Three training sessions developed and facilitated by the author covered:
(1) Course creation and availability.
(2) Adding resources.
(3) Adding activities.
(4) Managing files.
(5) Managing resource and activity availability.
Prior to the first training session, all teachers were emailed with details of a Moodle course called SandPit which contained a welcome video, demonstrations of functionality and a forum where teachers were encouraged to introduce themselves and ask questions. At the first training session teachers created a course in the school computer laboratory. In all sessions Moodle functionality was demonstrated and teachers practiced within their own course.
Moodle and Google
Teachers highlighted during the training that many students did not have proprietary third ware software such as MS Office, potentially impeding resource sharing. An option that did not depend on students owning particular software was the cloud based Google Apps. It offers a suite of word processing, spread sheet, presentation and email applications. Integration allows a single sign on between Moodle and Google Apps giving teachers and students access to Google’s superior email, messaging and document managing functionality. Moodle 2.1 is the version used in the school, but unlike previous versions this was without a ready-made integration component (block) for Google Apps as the open source community at Moodle had not yet written the code. After extensive research, the relevant files were gathered and through trial and error the steps for integration discovered.
Google Apps has an offering for education which removes their usual limit of ten free users. To avail of this a school has to authenticate its educational bona fides, verifying its domain by placing a piece of Google code on a school server. The issue with the school server disallowing communication outside the network made verification this way impossible. However, the National Centre for Teacher Education (NCTE) responsible for promoting the integration of ICT into education offers every school in Ireland space on a server called Scoilnet. A maths teacher had set up the schools website which enabled a redirect hosted on the Scoilnet server. He provided log in details, thus the school domain was verified with the domain schoolname.scoilnet.ie.
According to Google, confirmation of a Google Apps for Education account following verification usually takes one month. The school account was verified in March 2012 but at the time of writing nearly three months later the account has not been confirmed. This is despite emails and many ignored posts on the official Google Apps for Education upgrade forum, which at last count had 46 posts by 27 authors (The Official “I’ve Been Waiting For An EDU Upgrade” Thread – Google Groups n.d.).
Introducing Moodle to Students
During training sessions, teachers uploaded items to their courses that were relevant to their students. Teachers provided a list of students to the author. Usernames and passwords were created and these were distributed.
Of the 14 teachers that attended the training sessions, three progressed to the point where students were accessing resources on Moodle. The remaining teachers engaged in training and progressed to the point where they were familiar with Moodle functionality and had uploaded resources to their individual courses.
The Technology Acceptance Model and the theory of the Diffusion of Innovation provide the frameworks that guide the implementation of Moodle within this case study. Data was gathered using interviews and a questionnaire, with specific questions being asked in relation to technology acceptance and innovation diffusion.
There are connections between the dimensions of both of these models which is noted in the literature. Lee, Hsieh, & Hsu (2011) find that compatibility, complexity, relative advantage, and trialability have a significant impact on perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use. Venkatesh et al. (2003) incorporate the theory of the Diffusion of Innovations into their Unified Technology Acceptance and User Acceptance of Technology (UTUAT) model. The research presented in this paper used these connections to prepare the data for subsequent analysis.
Technology Acceptance Model
Theory of the Diffusion of Innovations
Related Dimensions A
Related Dimensions B
Perceived Ease of Use
Related Dimensions C
Related Dimensions D
Figure 1: Relationship among the dimensions of TAM and DOI
Respondents are divided into:
Full Adopters: Teachers whose students accessed Moodle.
Partial Adopters: Teachers whose students did not access Moodle.
All three teachers whose students accessed Moodle (Full Adopters) were interviewed via Skype and the interviews were recorded with the free audio software Audacity.
Figure 2: Details of teachers interviewed (Full Adopters)
A questionnaire was devised with the core questions from the interviews asked as a series of 14 statements; rated on a five-point Likert Scale which moved from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree. It was distributed to the 14 teachers who attended the training sessions.
As already discussed, the literature highlights the connections between the dimensions of TAM and DOI (Lee, Hsieh, & Hsu 2011; Venkatesh et al. 2003). This appears to be true within the context of this research; analysis of the responses demonstrates strong thematic links between answers for the dimensions of both models and so the discussion has been organised in this way.
Perceived Usefulness and Relative Advantage
Davis (1989) finds that perceived usefulness is a critical factor affecting the acceptance of technology. The perception of an innovation’s superiority over its predecessor, its relative advantage, is the single most influential dimension according to innovation diffusion literature (Lee, Hsieh, & Hsu 2011; Corrigan 2012). In the context of an LMS relative advantage can be pedagogical or administrative (Black et al. 2007).
In the first session with teachers the opportunity that Moodle offered to improve student accessibility was stressed. This proved to be a source of perceived usefulness/relative advantage. The integration of Google Apps was based on the teacher’s perceptions of the relative advantage and usefulness of that offering when compared to applications such as MS Office.
Administrative relative advantage is clearly present; an issue for Bríd was that because students relied on her she could not afford to be absent saying “I can’t be out, I just can’t, and I have Leaving Certs”. She had been ill for a few days and put an assignment online which students completed. Her perspective as a manager was that teachers could put resources online and that new teachers (perhaps covering for maternity leave) could use these resources to teach, hastening their induction. She said that “if we had an LMS like Moodle where everything was already up, a teacher could just slot in”. Áine echoed this pointing out that an absent teacher could still share notes. Bríd did wonder on a personal level how Moodle might break down the work/home boundary.
The idea of administrative advantage is further extended by Áine who made an interesting point about student demographics. Many students were born or have parents from further afield in Europe and an emerging trend is for these students to take an extra week’s holiday either side of mid-term to visit these locations. Senior cycle students in this situation faced with imminent Leaving Certificate examinations often emailed the teachers school email requesting notes but an LMS provides an alternative. “Moodle is open and it’s up there and it is easy for the student to get the notes and to ask ok what did you do today if it is a thing that they are not in school due to being in another country”. Another administrative advantage from a management perspective was highlighted by Bríd who felt that Moodle in conjunction with projectors could help reduce the costs associated with photocopying, toner and paper.
Relative advantage and perceived usefulness are present at a pedagogical level also with the potential that Moodle might allow a more student centric approach to teaching. Áine felt that Moodle “provides a secure area for teachers and students to interact and openly answer questions online”. Cait echoed this saying “it connects us more to where students are at”, noting student adeptness with technology and that by using Moodle teachers are “bringing education to their level”. She also felt that the social aspect of Facebook might be captured within Moodle noting that students could work but it would not feel like work, saying that it might be “like a classroom outside of the classroom”.
Pedagogical advantage and usefulness is apparent in the thinking of teachers who see Moodle as being better than its predecessor and offering the opportunity to develop technology skills. Cait felt that an LMS might alleviate student indifference noting that for them “the book or the PowerPoint is boring”. Áine thought that an LMS could provide support for students learning technology skills, which she sees as vital, noting that“computer skills are nearly a given when applying for jobs and going to college”. At the point at which the interview was conducted Cait felt that Moodle was an aid to teaching but could envision it being more integrated with her teaching saying that “if in time to come kids have laptops, it definitely could be instrumental in any classroom”.
In the questionnaire Full Adopters and Partial Adopters are between ‘neutral’ and ‘agree’ with the statement Moodle fills a gap in education. Both Full Adopters and Partial Adopters ‘agree’ to ‘strongly agree’ with the statement A Learning Management System (of which Moodle is an example) changes education. The general agreement with these statements by the teachers supports the contention that teachers perceive Moodle to be useful and advantageous relative to other offerings.
Perceived Ease of Use and Complexity
Compeau & Higgins (1995) find that self-efficacy can predict actual behaviour. Computer self-efficacy informs positive and negative responses associated with computer use, thus actual usage (Compeau et al. 1999). Venkatesh (2000) finds that self-perception about ability with computers influences perceived ease of use to a greater extent than direct experience. A person’s expectation about their performance ability and their ideas about the effort involved affects actual behaviour on any IT system (Venkatesh et al. 2003). These perspectives are supported by Sánchez & Hueros (2010) who find that self-efficacy affects perceived ease of use and van Raaij & Schepers (2008) who find that negative perceptions termed computer anxiety have a corresponding negative impact on perceived ease of use. Moving from technology acceptance to innovation diffusion, complexity is defined as the ease of understanding and use of an innovation (Keller 2005; Lee, Hsieh, & Hsu 2011). The less complex an innovation, the more likely it is to be adopted and there are obvious similarities between perceived ease of use and complexity.
An effort was made in training to link the use of Moodle to systems that teachers were already familiar such as other LMSs. Similarities between the functionality of different systems was also expressed; thus uploading a document to Moodle is akin to attaching a document to an email.
Áine had accessed Open University which uses Moodle and was currently using Blackboard for an online course. Cait, familiar with Moodle “wasn’t expecting it to be any more than it was”. Áine said that “Moodle is a fantastic resource for students to be able to use and for teachers to be able to use”. Bríd was unable to pinpoint her prior perception since Moodle was the first LMS she had used, saying “I didn’t have a perception, I formed a perception and the perception is wholly positive”. She expected that students would use it instantly and was disappointed that they were not as “excited as I was”.
A strong example of the influence of self-efficacy comes from Bríd who did not think that Moodle was complex but noted that she was apprehensive about using the system saying “I was nervous going down to the class of 20, they’re really bright and I was worried about usernames and passwords”. Cait found Moodle to be a relatively simple technology to understand, but that time was an issue noting that her “priority is preparing for the next class but if I have time at the weekend I do enjoy updating it or setting tasks”. Áine also found Moodle easy to use.
Bríd the most experienced of the teachers said that becoming an “online community is the only way and I’m really excited by it”. However the perceived ease of use of the system was hampered by the perceived effort to put resources on Moodle. She noted that for new teachers, many of their resources are digital and that when she trained they used overhead projectors and thus all her resources are positioned this way. For her the biggest effort is to digitise resources but there is no time to do this in the Irish system “making resources and having time to do that is my biggest challenge”. She said that teachers have 33 planning hours in a school year but “we’re not allowed to plan for classes in our own time, and that is a real shame because we could make resources as departments online. We could move it forward ourselves”.
Cait, a newly qualified teacher perceived Moodle as being easy to use, she noted that she is very comfortable with it and that she uses digital resources and video in her classes. She felt it might not be the same for more experienced members of staff saying that “older teachers haven’t grown up with it, like we would have grown up with…technology, the internet and that”. She neatly contextualised this from a pupil perspective saying that “they are constantly on the phone, the internet or something”. Áine felt she was equipped to deal with the LMS but preferred to look at it in the context of the future of ICT noting that the Department of Education had implemented laptops and projectors in each classroom nationally and that the “LMS seems like the next big step for schools in Ireland”.
The effort involved was undersold with Bríd saying the Principal said “we’re going to get Moodle in the school, you’ll do an hour’s training and you’ll be up and flying then”. Áine and Cait with prior knowledge of LMSs were not unduly worried about what the effort involved would be.
Full Adopters ‘slightly disagree’ while Partial Adopters ‘slightly agree’ with the statement The effort to get Moodle up and running was exactly what I thought it would be. The reality is that implementing Moodle involved more effort than expected. Perhaps the further progress of Full Adopters compared to Partial Adopters is that their starting perception was that the effort involved would be relatively minor. This aligns with the interviews and with the existing literature.
Full Adopters and Partial Adopter both ‘slightly agree’ with the statement I found the experience of getting to know Moodle easy, which corresponds with the interviews. Full Adopters found it to be easier than Partial Adopters scoring a 2.33 and 2.5 respectively and this corresponds with the existing literature.
Social Influence, Compatibility and Observability
A dimension called compatibility arises in the theory of the diffusion of innovation, it is about how an innovation fits with a person’s values, past and current requirements, it has a very significant impact on elearning adoption (Duan et al. 2010). This sense of compatibility may also be affected by the social influence of others engaged in the process of experiencing a new technology which in turn informs behavioural intention (Venkatesh et al. 2003; Venkatesh & Davis 2000; Venkatesh 2000). According to Black et al. (2009) higher user satisfaction affects observability which is the extent to which the impact of an innovation is visible (Keller 2005; Lee, Hsieh, & Hsu 2001). Corrigan (2012) calls it the second most important variable in innovation diffusion after relative advantage. Compeau & Higgins (1995) find that an observed behaviour positively influences perceptions of one’s own abilities.
Moodle was introduced to teachers as something that would benefit them but also as something that fits with teaching, teachers and students. Demonstrations of the functionality were also accompanied with questions about how it might be used in the context of teachers’ classes. The goal of positioning Moodle in terms of compatibility was to create some observable benefits, for example teachers liked the idea of instant feedback from quizzes. The plan was to create an environment where there was a positive social influence to use Moodle.
Those interviewed felt they could have predicted those teachers that would be interested in Moodle. Cait said that “dividing the staff in terms of age you’d have a good proportion of the ones that are using Moodle”. Bríd echoed this statement saying “there is a definite demographic that would be interested and I think over and above a certain age don’t go for these things”. Cait felt that younger teachers were more enthusiastic but “overall we do agree that it would be a good resource”, noting that having time to master it was an issue.
Questions of compatibility do arise; Áine felt that teacher attitudes to Moodle “depend on how the teacher currently uses technology”. Bríd compared the implementation of Moodle to the recent introduction of projectors and laptops in the classroom pointing out that initially some teachers moved from the position of saying “there is no way, I don’t have the training, I wouldn’t know how to turn on a computer” to a situation where there is an issue with teachers failing to turn computers off. Bríd felt it was a good year to introduce Moodle saying “the change in our school this year is immense and you couldn’t have come in a better year”.
Áine and Cait emphatically denied that other teachers influenced their expectations about the effort involved in implementing Moodle. Cait points out that an LMS was not discussed before this research began. Áine acknowledged that once the implementation started they discussed it as a group but took responsibility for her own part saying “I wouldn’t be a phobe with technology so didn’t really think too much of it”. Perhaps Áine has a greater influence than she thinks. Bríd refers to her as the “super-sub”, an approachable person to work with, who was encouraging and simplified Moodle for her. This is a clear example of the positive social influence of someone involved in the process, helping to inspire feelings of compatibility.
Áine and Cait felt that those not involved had no effect in the implementation’s success. For Áine it was “important to get people in the initial roll out that are enthusiastic and that want to try it and see how it is done. Their positivity can help and encourage other people that might not be as enthusiastic”. According to Bríd there have been changes in Irish education such as early retirements saying “we’ve had a monumental shift on our staff demographically”. By her estimation the oldest person on the staff is 52 and 80% of the teachers under 30. She notes that for these teachers that have “grown up around it, it is not daunting at all”. There seems to be the absence of a negative social influence which might have had a corresponding impact on the implementation.
In terms of observability Cait felt that Moodle had a minimal impact at the school as the implementation is at an early stage. Conversely Áine felt that it had an impact. On the Easter holidays she used a forum to answer student queries. Her logic is clear “often students reach a small stumbling block in their learning, they think they’ve hit a wall, it might only be something small and it is only a little bit of guidance they need. It is at that point that it is very beneficial”. She felt she would use it to offer assistance between school ending in May and the Leaving Certificate exams beginning in June. Áine felt that within the wider school the impact was negligible. This contrasts with Bríd who noted that one of the older teachers said “how is that Moodle thing going, that seems to be a great buzz”. Both Áine and Bríd felt the implementation coming as it did in the last term was unfortunate, the positive reception marred by poor timing as Bríd said “they say the bulk of work is done from September to Christmas”.
Both Full Adopters and Partial adopters ‘disagree’ to ‘strongly disagree’ with the statement Teachers that weren’t interested affected the implementation of Moodle. This corresponds with the interviews and does support the idea that a negative social influence which might have impeded the implementation was absent.
In terms of compatibility, for the statement My teacher training and experience as a teacher prepared me to use Moodle Full Adopters were ‘neutral’. This corresponds with the interviews, and it is probably Bríd who marked the strongly disagree which moved the group from agree to neutral. Partial Adopters ‘slightly disagree’ with the statement perhaps indicating some issue of incompatibility which hindered their progress.
The statement Moodle has had an impact at the school is about observability and Full Adopters ‘slightly agree’ while Partial Adopters ‘slightly disagree’ with the statement. This result corresponds with the existing literature.
Facilitating Conditions and Trialability
The extent to which an organisation is perceived to support an innovation is instrumental in the acceptance of technology (Sánchez & Hueros 2010; Venkatesh et al. 2003; Venkatesh 2000). One of the ways in which the school facilitated the implementation was by allowing training sessions during the teacher’s regular planning session. During these sessions teachers were able to trial Moodle. Trialabiltiy is a concept from innovation diffusion theory which is about the opportunity to try an innovation on a limited basis before the adoption/rejection decision (Corrigan 2012; Lee, Hsieh, & Hsu 2011; Black et al. 2009). Trialability was also offered by emailing teachers with access to the SandPit Moodle course before training actually began. Duan et al. (2010) finds that trialability has a significant influence on elearning adoption.
Áine felt that the Principal encouraged staff to use Moodle. Bríd felt that management were very visibly supportive in the beginning saying that teachers had “initial good feeling and good support and then it was very much up to ourselves”. Cait agrees saying that notices were put up but that “it was left up to ourselves really”. There is evidence of facilitation and in fact the Principal sat in on the first training session.
The teachers interviewed felt that Moodle training was good but Cait felt the sessions were too long. In the context of trialability Áine found the approach of moving from general to specific was reasonable saying “starting off with the generic was quite good because a lot of teachers wouldn’t realise what Moodle was about and what Moodle can do”.
Full Adopters lean towards ‘agree’ while Partial Adopters are ‘neutral’ for the statement The school actively supported the implementation of Moodle. This indicates that those who progressed further with Moodle perceived more organisational support than those that did not and this aligns with the literature.
Partial Adopters ‘agree to strongly agree’ with the statement The training sessions were adequate while Full Adopters ‘agree’. This corresponds with the interviews. A better approach would have been to assess how the training impacted perceptions of Moodle. However since there was no obligation on teachers to pursue Moodle and that the training sessions were essentially an opportunity to trial the system, it could be argued that these measures align with thinking around trialability. The stronger agreement of Full Adopters than Partial Adopters lends further support to this position.
The main finding arising from this case study is that the Technology Acceptance Model and the theory of the Diffusion of Innovation are valid models that can guide the implementation of an LMS such as Moodle. A clear source of perceived usefulness and relative advantage was found in emphasising the manner in which Moodle could improve the accessibility of learning for students. However there is also a cautionary note about pursuing perceived usefulness/relative advantage. For example, the attempt to integrate Google Apps for Education with Moodle was a theoretically attractive choice but was difficult and time consuming. Ultimately, the failure to have the account verified by Google meant that these efforts were in vain. A better option for others in a similar position would be to accept Moodle’s emailing and messaging capabilities and use Open Office which is freely available.
Overall Moodle was generally perceived as easy to use with low complexity and this promoted acceptance/diffusion. Self-efficacy definitely plays a role here. Bríd, the most experienced teacher, worried about exhibiting a lack of technology skills in front of her students which impacted her perceptions of the ease of use. Discussion during interviews revealed that those most interested in using Moodle were generally younger; and their self-efficacy around technology seemed to be higher. Others planning a Moodle implementation could improve the technological self-efficacy of more experienced teachers by directing their introduction to Moodle via the system itself through a very simple interaction like sharing a resource.
Social influence had a positive effect on acceptance/diffusion for those actually involved in the process. However those outside the process seemed impervious to the possible positive benefits. A suggestion to others planning a Moodle implementation would be to leverage compatibility and the observability of positive outcomes to widen the sphere of social influence thus encouraging more widespread acceptance/diffusion. One way to achieve this would be to find stronger synergies with existing educational initiatives. On reflection, this might have been achieved by demonstrating the compatibility of Moodle with the newly introduced laptops and projectors whose acceptance/diffusion evolved from initial reluctance to enthusiastic use.
The facilitating conditions present in the school for the research extended to the moral support of the principal, and the use of the weekly planning sessions to deliver Moodle training, all of which had a positive effect. Full acceptance/diffusion of Moodle requires strong, visible facilitation. A further suggestion therefore would be for a school to very visibly support an LMS implementation initiative by formally announcing its introduction at the daily school assembly. Additionally the school could also begin to route school news and details about events and activities through Moodle.
From a procedural perspective, the school in question used various IT systems, resources and applications. Knowledge and access to these systems was distributed unevenly in the teacher population. Useful, relevant pieces of information were stumbled upon rather than uncovered or made obvious. An additional complicating factor was the third party IT company who viewed the LMS implementation with suspicion, neither blocking progress nor facilitating it. An audit of existing systems, their use and access details might have provided useful insight into the exact requirements, helped direct effort appropriately and better positioned Moodle in terms of perceived usefulness and relative advantage. The inclusion of the third party at the audit stage with a clear statement of the intent and effect of Moodle might also have alleviated their concerns, and promoted a sense of inclusion.
The research presented here is limited by the fact that there is no data from teachers who did not engage with the implementation. Another issue is the absence of interviews with Partial Adopters, and the low response rate to the questionnaire. Ultimately, however, while the results cannot be generalised, the research carried out for this paper finds that both the Technology Acceptance Model and the theory of the Diffusion of Innovation offer accurate and relevant suggestions for the implementation of an LMS. It is also generally true that teachers with better perceptions of any of the dimensions from either model progressed furthest with the implementation. The final recommendation arising from the findings, therefore, is that practitioners with the opportunity to introduce Moodle will improve the chances of acceptance and adoption by positioning it in a manner that leverages the TAM and DOI dimensions.
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At the first session for the MSc in Applied eLearning students were asked to write a blog post about our hopes, fears and expectations. I hoped that I would develop a critical understanding of pedagogy and improve my technical skills and thus my professional practice. My aim was to match theory with practice and the ‘applied’ nature of the programme required this.
Theory into Practice
In order to identify what I have learned it is important to understand where I came from. I was a marketing executive who became an instructional designer. The first piece of elearning I made was a compliance course on the Consumer Protection Code for an insurance company. On reflection, it was a disaster. The subject matter expert gave me a very large number of PowerPoint slides which I authored using Articulate. The learner was forced to sit through the entire, sprawling presentation with no opportunity to jump between sections. Each line of text was animated and the audio matched the bullet points exactly. At the end of each section was a quiz but the questions were useless. As a piece of corporate, compliance elearning it was sufficient. The organisation could report to the Central Bank that staff were compliant with the Consumer Protection Code as 100% of staff had achieved a score of 70% or over in the quiz. As a piece of elearning it might be held up as an example of all that is bad in this field.
The last piece of elearning I made for that organisation was a course on the National Fleet Database. I spent days engaged with the subject matter expert until the course was refined into five neat sections, each containing five questions and answers which captured what the National Fleet Database was and how it affected the learners’ working life. The learner was allowed to jump at will between each section and the quiz that tracked their completion. There was no audio and the questions did not check what they could remember but what the learner could apply. The multiple choice questions were painstakingly crafted with plausible wrong answers and difficult to guess. Some learners complained about the course, they actually had to think. Of course compromises were made; the course could only attempt to reflect reality, but it was underpinned by sound pedagogy. The organisation still ticked the box with the regulator, 100% of staff scored above 70%. However an efficient and useful course was created by focussing on what the learner needed to know and how this could be applied rather than what could be recalled.
The first module of the MSc was Learning Theories; behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism and social constructivism were taught separately. However by the end of the module, I came to the same reasonable conclusion as my peers: the separation is only theoretical. A person engaged in education is probably learning in the manner espoused by the various pedagogies simultaneously. Andragogy, the pedagogy for adults had a significant impact on me. Adults need to see the relevance of learning to their own lives and to be seen to be capable of self-direction (Knowles & Bard, 1984). My Consumer Protection Code course was the antithesis of this while the National Fleet Database course is guided by these principles. Additionally the ideas that arise in social constructivism about authentic, empowered, self-directed learners were very interesting to me. Learning with a social aspect was outside the sphere of my experience of making courses that people access in isolation, and this piqued interest turned out the be the primary driver of my project.
The relevance of the Instructional Design module to an instructional designer is obvious. At the time I was using a very prescriptive interpretation of Bloom’s taxonomy and trying to create courses that arrange learning in terms of thinking skills (‘Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains’, n.d.). My position now is that the line between the different thinking skills is not distinct and that there isn’t a clear path to progress from knowledge to synthesis. The Consumer Protection Code course relied on recall, the National Fleet Database on application. The learning opportunities I create are, when necessary, focussed on higher order thinking skills.
I have also been guilty of being overly prescriptive with Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction (Gagné & Gagné, 1985). I think that this is often the death knell for interesting elearning. The original Nine Events weren’t scientifically tested but I do feel they can benefit the learner in terms of creating signposts to guide learning. The problem occurs when it is rigidly applied, it lacks imagination and stifles the learner and the Consumer Protection Code course is a classic example of this. The National Fleet Database course wears the Nine Events lightly.
The most important learning I took from the instructional design module was thinking around Cognitive Load Theory (Mayer, 2009). It postulates that a person engaged in learning has a limited amount of mental capacity to dedicate to that activity and that there are things an instructional designer can do to make that learning experience as efficient as possible. There are 12 principles to help manage cognitive load. For example the Redundancy Principle states that audio which mirrors text is inefficient. The Consumer Protection Code course shows no understanding of Cognitive Load Theory breaching this principle by having audio which exactly matches the on screen bullet points. The National Fleet Database course is sympathetic with Cognitive Load Theory. For example, the Segmenting Principle states that people learn better when content is divided into chunks which allow the learner to direct the pace of learning and the division of this course into five discreet, user-paced chunks reflects this.
As mentioned earlier during the Learning Theories module I was taken with the thinking arising from social constructivism. I decided that my project would be a departure from my normal work of creating learning objects, accessed in isolation, to a situation where I would facilitate an online course with asynchronous discussion in which the learners would create the learning (Murphy, Mahoney, Chen, Mendoza-Diaz, & Yang, 2005). This was where I first encountered the difficulty of putting theory into practice; my attempt at creating this course was an abysmal failure and did not work. I was employed by an insurance company and perhaps because it is an old fashioned industry or because of the hierarchical structure of the organisation people did not want to share anything in an online course with people from different departments. I failed to take my own advice from the Project and Change Management module in which I had noted that the end user stakeholders (my learners) were the ones who would be most resistant to this type of learning but stood to gain the most. I had suggested that the learning outcome of the course should be determined by the learners in order to secure their buy in and increase their openness to this opportunity. Instead I imposed my ideas about how this online course would work and it failed.
This failure was so complete that it forced me by degrees to adjust the aims and focus of the applied elearning project. At first the aim was to implement an online social constructivist course in a secondary school. The gap between theory and practice became apparent quickly. Teachers had to wrestle with the technology before dealing with pedagogy. Thus my project came to focus on simply introducing Moodle to the school. I adopted appropriate project and change management approaches. Moodle was positioned as a piece of technology implemented in line with thinking around the Technology Acceptance Model (Venkatesh, Morris, Davis, & Davis, 2003). It was also positioned as an innovation drawing on the theory of the Diffusion of Innovations for the implementation (Rogers, 2003). The key stakeholders were teachers and they were involved in the decisions that affected them. To a certain extent the technology was accepted, the innovation diffused and I had again managed to link theory to practice.
My learning has always had an informal aspect, reading blogs, experiencing failure, reflecting then changing what I do until it works. The MSc in Applied eLearning provided the structure and a means of formalising my learning and in future I would like pursue study in project management, graphic design and usability. Importantly, I believe I have achieved my goal of connecting theory to practice and provided direct evidence of this. As an elearning practitioner I have changed what I do to the benefit of the learner. I have developed a much broader definition of what it is I do for a living. Prior to completing my studies I felt that an instructional designer’s job was to facilitate learning. This remains valid but facilitation has many dimensions. My successes as an elearning practitioner have occurred when I have been able to draw on everything I have learned to balance project management, relationship management, graphic design, pedagogy and technology.
Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains. (n.d.). Retrieved June 23, 2012, from http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/bloom.html
Gagné, R. M., & Gagné, R. M. (1985). The conditions of learning and theory of instruction. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Knowles, M. S., & Bard, R. (1984). Andragogy in action : applying modern principles of adult learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Mayer, R. E. (2009). Multimedia learning. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.
Murphy, K., Mahoney, S., Chen, C., Mendoza‐Diaz, N., & Yang, X. (2005). A Constructivist Model of Mentoring, Coaching, and Facilitating Online Discussions. Distance Education, 26(3), 341–366. doi:10.1080/01587910500291454
Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations. New York: Free Press.
Venkatesh, V., Morris, M. G., Davis, G. B., & Davis, Fred D. (2003). User Acceptance of Information Technology: Toward a Unified View. MIS Quarterly, 27(3), 425–478.
‘Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly’ (Wenger, 2006). It might be argued that teachers engaged in activity such as the implementation of Moodle could be defined as a community of practice (CoP). Within a school there might be many more of these informal groups that align themselves to improving what they do.
A CoP is a group which improves what it does by its members learning from each other. According to Hislop (2003) there are two fundamental elements that underpin learning in this context; the first is the activity based nature of knowledge and the second is the group character of learning. The latter point has resonances with social constructivism. Arising from the work of Vygotsky social constructivism takes the position that meaning is generated through the interaction of people (as cited in Jordan, 2008, pp. 55-60); this explicitly expresses the social character of learning. Jordan (2008) states that social constructivism contends that ‘knowledge is constructed in the context of the environment in which it is encountered’ (p. 59), learning therefore possesses a strong contextual nature and this fits neatly with ideas about situated learning from which CoPs arises.
Hislop (2003) is interested in social learning and uses the CoP theory to analyse the implementation of innovation. From this perspective it is the interactions that occur between man (CoP) and boundary objects that can frame the implementation of innovation. A boundary object according to Hislop (2003) can be anything physical, symbolic, or linguistic which can develop relations within a community by providing a common focus. It might be argued that Moodle is one such boundary object. The thrust of Hislops argument is that a CoP can change the flow of an innovation processes, but that these innovation processes can also impact a CoP.
From this perspective it is reasonable to consider teachers a community of practice deriving interview questions that explore this.
1. How would you describe other teacher’s attitudes in general towards VLEs?
2. Could you have predicted which groups of teachers that would be interested and those that wouldn’t be interested in implementing a VLE?
3. Has this affected the implementation?
Hislop, D. (2003). The Complex Relations Between Communities of Practice and the Implementation of Technological Innovations. International Journal of Innovation Management, 7(2), 163–188.
Jordan, A. (2008). Approaches to learning : a guide for teachers. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Wenger, E. (2006, June). Communities of practice. Ewenger.com. Retrieved May 21, 2012, from http://www.ewenger.com/theory/index.htmRead More
Institutional elearning has become synonymous with the Learning Management System (LMS). Adherents of the theory of the social construction of technology view the development, implementation and use of these systems as being shaped by human action and this is underpinned by the theory of social constructivism (Jones & Bissell, 2011). The leading open source LMS Moodle defines itself as a system that explicitly supports social constructionist learning clearly indicating a social constructivist bias.
However there is a body of thought that describes the LMS, including Moodle as being technologically deterministic. This arises because the constraints imposed by their design and features are said to shape human actions. Online learning spaces which might transcend these limitations allowing human activity to shape technology are increasingly discussed under the banner of the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) (Severance, 2008). The PLE is characterised by a shift away from the centralised, organisation driven LMS to user- centred management, integration and organisation of an individual’s online learning environment. The precursor to the PLE is the integration of third party applications with existing LMSs.
Certainly my project which researches the implementation and use of Moodle (an LMS) within an Irish secondary school exists within this context. It would be interesting to explore the tension between the assertion that Moodle is inherently socially constructionist but that as an LMS it can be viewed as technologically deterministic. Perhaps another study could explore this tension in the context of a rudimentary PLE created through the integration of a third party application (Google Apps) with Moodle.
Jones, A., & Bissell, C. (2011). The social construction of educational technology through the use of authentic software tools. Research in Learning Technology, 19(3), 285–297. doi:10.1080/21567069.2011.624995
Severance, C., Hardin, J., & Whyte, A. (2008). The coming functionality mash-up in Personal Learning Environments. Interactive Learning Environments, 16(1), 47–62. doi:10.1080/10494820701772694Read More
My project is a Moodle implementation and a way to interpret such a venture is through prism of the theory of diffusion of innovations. Innovation has its own five stage decision process of knowledge, persuasion, decision, implementation and confirmation (Keller, 2005). The key question is what happens at these stages that decide whether an innovation is implemented or not?
According to Keller (2005)most of the important activity which ultimately decides whether one adopts or rejects an innovation influencing work occurs at the persuasion stage. It raises the question, what are the factors that persuade someone to adopt or reject an innovation?
There is a consensus in the literature that the factors that persuade someone to adopt or reject an innovation are relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability and observability (Keller, 2005; Lee, Hsieh, & Hsu, 2011)
Relative advantage is the perception of how much better an innovation is than its predecessor. Lee et al., (2011) argue that this is the single most influential dimension.
The compatibility of an innovation is about how it fits with a person’s values, their past and current requirements while complexity is about the ease of understanding and use of an innovation (Keller, 2005; Lee et al., 2011).
A person can be persuaded to adopt an innovation if given the opportunity to test the innovation on a limited basis innovation (Keller, 2005; Lee et al., 2011).This probably explains the profusion of free trials by software companies. Both Keller (2005) and Lee et al. (2001) state that if the results of the innovation can be seen by others, it is deemed to be observable and affects persuasion.
According to Keller (2003) higher perceptions of relative advantage and compatibility, observability of positive outcomes together with a lesser degree of complexity and the opportunity to trial increase an innovations likelihood of adoption. Undoubtedly this is a two way street where perceptions in the opposite perception at the persuasion stage can result in the decision to reject the innovation.
Simply put if the innovation make a person’s life easier, if it fits with their world view, if it is easy to use, offers a tangible benefit and they get the chance to trial it then the chance of adoption is higher. In the context of my research and project it justifies the inclusion of the following interview questions:
Keller, C. (2005). Virtual learning environments: three implementation perspectives. Learning, Media and Technology, 30(3), 299–311. doi:10.1080/17439880500250527
Lee, Y.-H., Hsieh, Y.-C., & Hsu, C.-N. (2011). Adding Innovation Diffusion Theory to the Technology Acceptance Model: Supporting Employees’ Intentions to use E-Learning Systems. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 14(4), 124–137.Read More