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The impact of blackboard learn as a learning management system (LMS) for University of Limpopo students (2014)

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Blackboard-learn system plays an important role in enhancing teaching and learning in several universities in South Africa and internationally. University of Limpopo has started using the system form 2010 in order to be at par with other educational institutions. Regardless of its appreciation from students, blackboard-learn system is not getting the support it deserves from the management. The study provides the university management with information about the importance of the system to the students and if what they have invested in, is returning value for their money. The study was conducted through a quantitative design, where a researcher used blackboard-learn online enterprise survey system to collect data from participating students. The data was collected and uploaded to SPSS (statistical package for social sciences) for analysis. Hence the study investigates the impact of blackboard-learn as a learning management system for university of Limpopo students’ academic performance and the sample of 500 students took part in the study were 229 (45.8%) students were Male and 271 (54.2%) Female. Besides the statistics given above, more female and male (53% and 43%) students with their ages ranging from 18 to 24,consider blackboard-learn as the system to enhance their academic performance, whereas few male and female students (about 3% and 1% of the sample population) see no difference when using the system or studying in a traditional way. It was also found that most students are comfortable in using blackboard-learn system if given the chance, but there are barriers that hinders access to the resource like; poor network (Wi-Fi) strength, Very few computers for student usage, lack of support for students who are residing outside the campus, and lack of online support and training for blackboard-learn system for students and staff. Most of the students confirmed that their performance has improved since started using blackboard-learn, were 43% has realized better performances and 27% are on average performance. They learn better when using some blackboard-learn tools like Course content, discussion-board, messages and online assessments. The findings of the study is that blackboard-learn has really enhanced students’ academic performance, because it provides an improved access to learning material, immediate feedback and makes communication and collaboration easy. Although students applaud the system, there are too many challenges that needs to be addressed; University of Limpopo is always having problem with its network, the blackboard-learn access is always blocked in students’ residences, not all the residences are equipped with Wi-Fi, there is weak connection in those which are connected and there is a limited number of computers as compared to students. There are some recommendations to improve the usage of blackboard-learn system as the research showed that it improves students’ academic performance; Management is urged to build more computer laboratories for access, secure laptops’ sponsors for students to buy them with at least half the price, equip all students residences with Wi-Fi, provide staff with some incentives (certificate, T-shirts, iPad etc.) after blackboard-learn training, make blackboard-learn training for students to be part of orientation program and make sure that there is an online operational manual for students and staff. Keywords: Learning management system, Blackboard-learn, University of Limpopo, School of education, management, value for money, Wi-Fi.
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TURFLOOP GRADUATE SCHOOL OF LEADERSHIP (TGSL)
The impact of blackboard learn as a learning management system (LMS) for
University of Limpopo students
By
Mabitsane Abram Boshielo
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
MASTER OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION
in the
FACULTY OF MANAGEMENT & LAW
(Turfloop Graduate School of Leadership)
At the
UNIVERSITY OF LIMPOPO
SUPERVISOR: DR M. LETHOKO
DATE: NOVEMBER 2014
DECLARATION
I, Boshielo Mabitsane Abram declare that this research submitted to faculty of
Management and Law that is a product of my original work in design and execution, and
that all sources that I have used have been quoted and acknowledged by means of
references. I further declare that this work has never been submitted before for any
other degree at any institution and that data has been collected by the researcher while
bearing in mind all ethical considerations.
30 November 2014
________________
Mabitsane Abram Boshielo Date
i
DEDICATION
The work is dedicated to the following people:
My wife Mohlapa, your everlasting care, love, support, and understanding in the process
of my study will always be my motivation and inspiration.
My three angels; Koketso, Zach and Mologadi; your wellbeing in my life drives me to the
limit. You have been always in my mind during this study and will always remain;
whatever positive thing I do it is for you.
To my mother, Modiagape Leah Boshielo, even though you did not undergo a formal
school; your commitment, diligence and endurance to work hard for my foundation
studies have really shown me that there is nothing impossible on earth; your strength is
the pillar of my survival.
ii
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I would have not seen the light at this tunnel, if it was not for the following people who
contributed to this work in countless ways:
My Mother, Modiagape Leah Boshielo, you have been and still be the pillar of my
strength.
My Supervisor, Dr. Mankolo Lethoko, for her inspiration, guidance, provision and
encouragement.
My brothers and sisters, Aaron, Ace, Daniel, Gregory and Thandi, Tshidi, for their
encouragement, and never give-up attitude. I am this person today, because of
you guys.
My best friend, Madumelane, your never give-up spirit in studies and expertise in
writing a research have pushed me to the limit and encouraged me more than
you can imagine.
To my Manager, Dr. Farivar Rahimi; Director, Mr. Gideon Ledwaba and Former
Director, Mr. Marothi Letsoalo for giving me the opportunity to prioritise my
studies, your support has enabled this work to turn up.
To all my colleagues in Information Communication and Technology (ICT)
division, specifically staff from academic support section. Thank you for being
there when I need you Solomon.
A special thanks to my colleague Dr. Mboweni from School of Education who
assisted a lot in organizing his second to fourth year students to complete my
online questionnaires.
To the University of Limpopo 2nd to 4th year students in School of Education; your
time and effort to assist in this study is so valuable.
iii
ABSTRACT
Blackboard-learn system plays an important role in enhancing teaching and learning in
several universities in South Africa and internationally. University of Limpopo has
started using the system form 2010 in order to be at par with other educational
institutions. Regardless of its appreciation from students, blackboard-learn system is not
getting the support it deserves from the management. The study provides the university
management with information about the importance of the system to the students and if
what they have invested in, is returning value for their money. The study was conducted
through a quantitative design, where a researcher used blackboard-learn online
enterprise survey system to collect data from participating students. The data was
collected and uploaded to SPSS (statistical package for social sciences) for analysis.
Hence the study investigates the impact of blackboard-learn as a learning management
system for university of Limpopo students’ academic performance and the sample of
500 students took part in the study were 229 (45.8%) students were Male and 271
(54.2%) Female.
Besides the statistics given above, more female and male (53% and 43%) students with
their ages ranging from 18 to 24,consider blackboard-learn as the system to enhance
their academic performance, whereas few male and female students (about 3% and 1%
of the sample population) see no difference when using the system or studying in a
traditional way.
It was also found that most students are comfortable in using blackboard-learn system if
given the chance, but there are barriers that hinders access to the resource like; poor
network (Wi-Fi) strength, Very few computers for student usage, lack of support for
students who are residing outside the campus, and lack of online support and training
for blackboard-learn system for students and staff.
Most of the students confirmed that their performance has improved since started using
blackboard-learn, were 43% has realized better performances and 27% are on average
performance. They learn better when using some blackboard-learn tools like Course
content, discussion-board, messages and online assessments.
iv
The findings of the study is that blackboard-learn has really enhanced students’
academic performance, because it provides an improved access to learning material,
immediate feedback and makes communication and collaboration easy.
Although students applaud the system, there are too many challenges that needs to be
addressed; University of Limpopo is always having problem with its network, the
blackboard-learn access is always blocked in students’ residences, not all the
residences are equipped with Wi-Fi, there is weak connection in those which are
connected and there is a limited number of computers as compared to students. There
are some recommendations to improve the usage of blackboard-learn system as the
research showed that it improves students’ academic performance. Management is
urged to build more computer laboratories for access, secure laptops’ sponsors for
students to buy them with at least half the price, equip all students residences with Wi-
Fi, provide staff with some incentives (certificate, T-shirts and iPad) after blackboard-
learn training, make blackboard-learn training for students to be part of orientation
program and make sure that there is an online operational manual for students and
staff.
Keywords: Learning management system, Blackboard-learn, University of Limpopo,
School of education, management, value for money, Wi-Fi.
v
ACRONYMS AND ABBREVIATIONS
UL University of Limpopo
Bb Blackboard-learn
LMS Learning Management System
DoE Department of Education
CHE Council of Higher Education
HE Higher Education
HEI Higher Education Institutions
HET Higher Education and Training
ICT Information and Communication Technology
SPSS Statistical Package for Social Sciences
WebCt Web Course Tools
Tmlearn Turfloop Medunsa Learning Environment
vi
TABLE OF CONTENTS
DECLARATION ........................................................................................................................ i
DEDICATION .......................................................................................................................... ii
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ....................................................................................................... iii
ABSTRACT ............................................................................................................................ iv
ACRONYMS AND ABBREVIATIONS ..................................................................................... vi
CHAPTER 1 .............................................................................................................................. 1
OVERVIEW OF THE STUDY ................................................................................................. 1
1.1 Introduction ................................................................................................................... 1
1.2 Problem statement .................................................................................................. 2
1.3 Motivation/ Rationale for the study ................................................................................ 2
1.4 Significance of the study ............................................................................................... 3
1.5 Aim of the study ............................................................................................................ 3
1.6 Objectives ..................................................................................................................... 3
1.7 Research questions ...................................................................................................... 4
1.8 Literature review ........................................................................................................... 4
1.8.1 Definition of blackboard ........................................................................................... 5
1.8.2 Blackboard features ................................................................................................. 6
1.9 Definition of concepts .................................................................................................... 7
1.10 Sampling, sample methods and sampling size ............................................................ 8
1.11 Data collection ............................................................................................................ 9
1.12 Data analysis .............................................................................................................. 9
1.13 Ethical considerations ................................................................................................10
1.14 Research Limitations ..................................................................................................10
1.15 Outline of the dissertation ...........................................................................................11
CHAPTER 2 .............................................................................................................................12
LITERATURE REVIEW .........................................................................................................12
2.1 Introduction ..................................................................................................................12
2.2 History of Blackboard as a Learning Management System (LMS) ................................13
2.3 Blackboard features .....................................................................................................14
2.4 Benefits of blackboard learn as Learning Management system (LMS) .........................15
2.5 Advantages of Blackboard learn...................................................................................17
2.6 Use of Blackboard learn in education- International perspective ..................................18
2.7 Use of Blackboard learn in education- South African perspective .................................18
2.7.1 Learning Management System and Higher Education (HE) Act ............................. 22
2.7.2 Learning Management System and Council of Higher Education (CHE) ................ 23
2.8 Blackboard learn as a Learning Management System in University of Limpopo ...........23
2.8.1 Blackboard learn access for students staying in university‘s residences ................ 27
2.8.1.1 Computer laboratories ..................................................................................... 27
2.8.1.2 University hotspot areas .................................................................................. 28
2.8.2 Blackboard learn access for students staying outside university‘s residences ....... 28
2.9 Conclusion ...................................................................................................................29
CHAPTER 3 .............................................................................................................................30
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY..............................................................................................30
3.1 Introduction ..................................................................................................................30
3.2 Research approach and design ....................................................................................31
3.2.1 Case study ............................................................................................................ 32
3.2.2 Research approach ............................................................................................... 33
3.4 Data collection .............................................................................................................35
3.5 Data analysis ...............................................................................................................37
3.6 Population ....................................................................................................................38
3.7 Sample .........................................................................................................................38
3.7.1 Sampling technique ............................................................................................... 38
3.8 Reliability and validity ...................................................................................................39
3.9 Ethical considerations ..................................................................................................40
3.10 Research exclusions and limitations...........................................................................41
3.11 Participant’s consent ..................................................................................................42
3.11.1 Confidentiality ...................................................................................................... 42
3.12 Summary ...................................................................................................................42
CHAPTER 4 .............................................................................................................................44
ANALYSIS AND PRESENTATION OF THE RESULTS .........................................................44
4.1 Introduction ..................................................................................................................44
4.2 Results and discussions ...............................................................................................45
4.2.1 Response rate ....................................................................................................... 46
4.2.2 Descriptive statistical analysis ............................................................................... 46
4.3 Section A .....................................................................................................................47
4.3.1 Biographical/ demographical statistics ................................................................... 47
4.3.2 Age of the respondents .......................................................................................... 48
4.3.3 Level of study ........................................................................................................ 48
4.3.4 Number of year(s) in the same level of study ......................................................... 49
4.3.5 Places where students access Blackboard-learn ................................................... 50
4.4 Section B: ....................................................................................................................51
4.4.1 Objective 1: To determine if blackboard-learn is a tool to enhance students’
academic performance. .................................................................................................. 51
4.4.1.1 How does blackboard-learn assist students in achieving their learning
objectives? .................................................................................................................. 51
4.4.1.2 Blackboard-learn tools that students have used .............................................. 52
4.4.1.3 Are you comfortable in taking blackboard learn assessment (Quizzes,
Tests and Examinations)? ........................................................................................... 52
4.4.1.4 Ranking of blackboard-learn tools in making learning easier for students ....... 54
4.4.1.5 Students indicating their satisfaction about blackboard, using the Likert
answering style. .......................................................................................................... 58
4.5 Section C: ....................................................................................................................62
4.5.1 Objective 2: To determine factors that could hinder students from improving
their academic performance through blackboard-learn system. ...................................... 62
4.5.1.1 How do students access blackboard-learn? .................................................... 62
4.5.1.2 The question addresses whether students used or are aware of other
learning management systems in their studies or not. ................................................. 63
4.5.1.3 Students are asked if they are satisfied with the way blackboard-learn is
available to them. ........................................................................................................ 63
4.5.1.4 Students are required to rank the given statements for blackboard-learn
access through the university s network. ..................................................................... 65
4.6 Section D .....................................................................................................................72
4.6.1 Objective 3: The impact of blackboard as a learning management system on
students’ performances. ................................................................................................. 72
4.6.1.1 Students are asked about their performance when using blackboard-learn
material as compared to traditional way of teaching. ................................................... 72
4.6.1.3 Students are asked about their preferences between blackboard-learn
assessment and traditional assessment. ..................................................................... 73
4.6.1.4 Students are asked to rate statements about blackboard-learn usage
according to their experience. ..................................................................................... 75
4.6.1.5 Students are requested to indicate if they strongly agree, agree, neutral,
disagree or strongly disagree with the statement given about blackboard-learn
system. ....................................................................................................................... 78
4.7 Section E .....................................................................................................................82
4.7.1. In your own opinion, do you think that blackboard-learn is vital to your studies? ... 82
4.7.2. What do you think should be done, in order to improve the usage of
blackboard-learn system in University of Limpopo? ........................................................ 84
4.8. Summary ....................................................................................................................86
CHAPTER 5 .............................................................................................................................87
SUMMARY OF THE FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ..................87
5.1 Introduction ..................................................................................................................87
5.2 Chapter overview .........................................................................................................87
5.3 Summary of the findings ..............................................................................................87
5.3.1 Demographic data ................................................................................................. 88
5.3.2 Objective 1: To determine if students consider blackboard learn as the tool to
enhance their academic performance. ............................................................................ 89
5.3.3 Objective 2: To find out barriers that could hinder students from improving their
academic performance through blackboard learn ........................................................... 90
5.3.4 Objective 3: To evaluate the impact of blackboard learn as a learning-
management system on university of Limpopo students. ................................................ 93
5.4 Conclusions .................................................................................................................95
5.4.1 Demographic data ................................................................................................. 95
5.4.2 To determine if students consider blackboard learn as the tool to enhance
their academic performance. .......................................................................................... 96
5.4.3 To find out barriers that could hinder students from improving their academic
performance through blackboard learn ........................................................................... 96
5.4.4 To evaluate the impact of blackboard learn as a learning-management system
on University of Limpopo students. ................................................................................. 97
5.5 Recommendations .......................................................................................................97
5.5.1 Recommendations to University of Limpopo management .................................... 97
5.5.2 Recommendations to students .............................................................................. 98
5.5.3 Recommendations to Staff or Lecturers ................................................................. 98
5.6 Limitations ....................................................................................................................98
5.7 Areas of further research..............................................................................................99
5.8 Chapter summary.........................................................................................................99
REFERENCES .................................................................................................................... 100
APPENDIX A: LEARNER’S QUESTIONNAIRE ................................................................... 107
APPENDIX B ....................................................................................................................... 116
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 2.1: Blackboard-learn homepage .............................................................................................. 14
Figure 2.2: Course-page showing the course content ........................................................................ 15
Figure 2.3: University of Limpopo impact model for blackboard-learn training adoption model. . 20
Figure 2.4: University of Limpopo Blackboard-learn user statistics from the year 2010 to 2014. 21
Figure 4.1: Gender respondents ............................................................................................................ 47
Figure 4.2: Level of study ........................................................................................................................ 49
Figure 4.3: Blackboard-learn access points ......................................................................................... 50
Figure 4.4: Illustrate if students are comfortable in taking blackboard-learn assessment or not . 53
Figure 4.5: Course content ..................................................................................................................... 54
Figure 4.6: Assessment tool ................................................................................................................... 55
Figure 4.7: Discussion-board tool .......................................................................................................... 56
Figure 4.8: My messages tool ................................................................................................................ 57
Figure 4.9: Announcement tool .............................................................................................................. 57
Figure 4.10: Usefulness of blackboard in enhancing students’ knowledge. ................................... 58
Figure 4.11: Improvement of computer literacy skills, due to blackboard-learn usage. ................ 59
Figure 4.12: Feelings of students about all courses to be taught through blackboard-learn. ...... 59
Figure 4.13: The feelings of students on a statement that they perform better in courses that are
taught through blackboard-learn system .............................................................................................. 60
Figure 4.14: Students find it easy to use blackboard-learn assessment tool in taking tests,
examinations or assignments. ................................................................................................................ 61
Figure 4.15: Rate the ease to connect blackboard-learn system through university‘s LAN inside
computer laboratories. ............................................................................................................................. 65
Figure 4.16: Illustration of blackboard‘s accessibility through wireless network. ........................... 66
Figure 4.17: shows how students rate the availability of blackboard-learn 24/7. ........................... 66
Figure 4.18: Rates students on the number of computer for blackboard-learn. ............................. 67
Figure 4.19: Shows how the internet is available to ease blackboard-learn connectivity ............. 68
Figure 4.20: Indicates if students are aware that blackboard can be accessed anywhere in the
campus as long as you know the web-address and password. ........................................................ 69
Figure 4.21: indicates if students experience technical difficulties when connecting to
blackboard-learn system. ........................................................................................................................ 69
Figure 4.22: looks at the students, if blackboard support and training is enough for them. ......... 70
Figure 4.23: Indicates if all courses that students are studying are available on blackboard-learn
system with content. ................................................................................................................................ 70
Figure 4.24: Indicate if students are aware that they can be able to connect to blackboard from
outside the campus as long as are connected to internet ................................................................. 71
Figure 4.25: Looks at the preferences of students between blackboard-learn online and the
traditional assessments. .......................................................................................................................... 74
Figure 4.26: Looks at the overall performance since student started using blackboard-learn ..... 75
Figure 4.27: Student‘s level of understanding when learning through blackboard-learn .............. 76
Figure 4.28: The opportunity of students to be more flexible in learning development processes
when using blackboard-learn. ................................................................................................................ 76
Figure 4.29: Looks at the perception of students on blackboard-learn as being useful and having
organised content material for their revision. ....................................................................................... 77
Figure 4.30: Looks at the perception that; by taking more activities on blackboard-learn
enhances students’ computer skills....................................................................................................... 78
Figure 4.31: Looks at the assistance that blackboard-learn provides for students with platform to
not lose track and concentrate on their studies ................................................................................... 78
Figure 4.32: Indicates the improvements of students’ performance since started using
blackboard-learn system. ........................................................................................................................ 79
Figure 4.33: Indicates if the students’ computer skills have been improved since started using
blackboard-learn system ......................................................................................................................... 80
Figure 4.34: Shows if blackboard-learn has made an impact in students’ performance as
compared to traditional way of learning. ............................................................................................... 80
Figure 4.35: Indicates if blackboard-learn has improved students’ way of studying. .................... 81
Figure 5.1: blackboard-learn and web address ................................................................................... 96
LIST OF TABLES
Table 2.1: Blackboard users ................................................................................................................... 20
Table 4.1: Response rate ........................................................................................................................ 46
Table 4.2: Gender .................................................................................................................................... 47
Table 4.3: Age........................................................................................................................................... 48
Table 4.4: Year(s) in the same level...................................................................................................... 50
Table 4.5: Showing how blackboard-learn assist students in achieving their learning objectives
.................................................................................................................................................................... 51
Table 4.6: Illustrate Blackboard-learn tools that students have used .............................................. 52
Table 4.7: What students use to access blackboard-learn system .................................................. 62
Table 4.8: Types of learning management systems, students are exposed to. ............................. 63
Table 4.9: Students’ feelings with the way blackboard-learn is available to them. ........................ 64
Table 4.10: Performance of students when using blackboard-learn material as compared to
traditional way of learning. ...................................................................................................................... 72
Table 4.11: Type of questions, students relate to or understand when taking blackboard online
assessment. .............................................................................................................................................. 73
CHAPTER 1
OVERVIEW OF THE STUDY
1.1 Introduction
In order to enhance face to face teaching and learning, and also to keep abreast with
other high education institutions, the University of Limpopo (UL) has adopted
“Blackboard-learn” (Bb) as a learning management system (LMS). This is a set of
software tools designed for providing online teaching and learning in most of Higher
Educational Institutions (HEI) (Hall, 2001). It is a web-based technology that equips an
instructor with a better way to plan, design and deliver content, monitor and assess
students’ performance (Blackboard, 1997-2011). A learning management system can
also provide students with the ability to use some interactive features such as
discussion forums, chat rooms for real time discussion, electronic mails, facilities to
submit assignments electronically and taking quizzes and tests online (Gronlund, 2002).
DeNeui and Dodge, (2006) indicated that new technologies have the potential to
change the way teachers teach and learners learn, and Levine and Sun (2003) said that
they offer a highly interactive medium of learning that can be customised to meet the
needs of students. However Coates (2007) outlined that the system may also influence
the selection and development of online resources and affect traditional teaching
practices, while also introducing a new layer of complexities into the management of
teaching programs. Both academic staff and students may benefit from using
Blackboard learn; where the benefits may include availability, quick feedback, improved
interactions, and building skills such as organisation, time management and
communication (Bradford, 2006-2007). Hence the objectives of the study is to determine
if students consider blackboard learn as the tool to enhance their academic
performance, find out barriers that could hinder students from improving their academic
performance through blackboard learn and to evaluate the impact of blackboard learn
as a learning management system on University of Limpopo students.
1
1.2 Problem statement
In pursuits for better and exciting next generation of teaching and learning in 2002;
University of Limpopo introduced WebCt (Web Course Toolsa learning system
bought by blackboard and modified to be called blackboard-learn (Hazari, 1998)) as a
learning management system to complement and support students and instructors in
their learning and teaching endeavour. The blackboard-learn system was to
complement face to face teaching and learning and enable students to learn
independently through electronically (eLearning) system (Browne and Jenkins, 2003).
The university has invested and still investing lot of money in purchasing and
maintaining the blackboard learn system, training staff and students to use it effectively
(Author).
Since the inception of Blackboard learn version 9.1 in University of Limpopo, it was
assumed that staff and students are using it after the training and this assumption was
done after checking the database login reports on the system without considering how
effective and what impact does the system have to students ‘s success or failure.
The problem is that university management does not see any value for their money in
purchasing the blackboard learn system, which was to make teaching and learning
easier and serves as a foundation for a rich education experience in delivering just in
time tools for teaching and learning (Beth, 2010:82 - 83).
1.3 Motivation/ Rationale for the study
As the researcher is employed as consultant for blackboard-learn system for the
academic support section in the ICT division of the institution; he is trying to find the
ways to address the impact of blackboard learn on students’ academic performance
ever since it was adopted. The researcher is observing that more staff is starting to use
the system whereas large number of students is becoming comfortable in working on
blackboard-learn platform. Since the management needed more information about how
the system is being utilized, the study will also assist them in gauging the usage of the
system, advising them about the room for improvement if any and also update them
2
about value for their money in purchasing the system; whether they should go on paying
the license or go for alternative Learning Management System.
Since the researcher is directly involved with functionality of the system and its usage,
maintenance and updates; the need to conduct this research in order to be able to know
its impact to the student users and suggest some improvement were needed while
providing the management with the feedback of blackboard-learn system usage.
1.4 Significance of the study
The results of this research will provide comprehensive explanation of how students,
staff and university management benefit. It will also provide all the relevant institution
stakeholders with the challenges of utilising blackboard-learn system for teaching and
learning, specifically in accessing the system, taking online assessments, trainings or
understanding of how the system works.
Meanwhile through blackboard students will hopefully be able to conveniently have the
following; increased availability of material, quick feedback, improved communication
and the ability to build their skills (Peter, 2007). The research is so significant because it
will provide the university management and academic staff on areas were improvement
is needed on the utilization of blackboard-learn in enhancing teaching and learning. The
research looks specifically at the impact that blackboard learn system has on students’
academic performance generally. The study will also be used to inform the
management to support and improve access and also intensifies the effort to make sure
those blackboard-learn is fully utilized.
1.5 Aim of the study
To determine the impact of blackboard learn system on university of Limpopo student’s
academic performance.
1.6 Objectives
To determine if students consider blackboard learn as the tool to enhance their
academic performance;
3
To find out barriers that could hinder students from improving their academic
performance through blackboard learn;
To evaluate the impact of blackboard learn as a learning management system on
university of Limpopo students.
1.7 Research questions
In what ways do students consider blackboard-learn as a tool to enhance their
academic performance?
What barriers hinder students from improving their academic performance
through blackboard-learn?
What is the impact of blackboard-learn as a learning management system on
University of Limpopo students?
1.8 Literature review
Introduction
Blackboard-learn is a learning management system, which also a platform created with
a third generation technology in order to handle courses and educational contents
(Socrates Centre for Learning, 2012). Blackboard provides powerful and easy-to-use
systems for educational instruction, communication, and assessment. Blackboard Learn
is the core academic program, which is used in course management system for
classroom and online educational assistance. It has its competitors like Angel, eCollege,
Linux, and Learning Space, as well as Open-source learning systems such as The
Sakai Project, Moodle, and uPortal. Despite the drive toward new portal commodities,
the Blackboard Learn has become the dominant e-learning software (Douglas, Ian,
2012).
Like other institutions of higher learning, University of Limpopo has also introduced
online learning management system to its academic community in order to keep pace
with the technological revolution in the higher educational fields. Given that the system
has some cost constraints; it is very important to investigate its impact to university of
Limpopo student community. These study is conducted in order to examine what impact
4
is the blackboard learn has as a learning management system for University of Limpopo
students.
Online environment like blackboard learn may provide a different type of learning
experience than traditional face to face contexts or printed material (Heirdsfield, 2011).
Blackboard is a learning management system that provides an instructor with a way to
deliver content, run the assessments, monitor student‘s participation and assess their
performance. Learning Management System may also provide students with the ability
to interactive features such as threaded discussions, emailing and discussion forums
(Sarachandran, 2012).
Apart from providing resources for private learners LMS may also add virtual dimension
to traditional campus-based study (Coates, 2007) and also facilitates mixed or blended
teaching and learning which combine online and on-campus components (Malikowski,
Thompson & Theis, 2007). Blackboards learn has the potential to change the way
instructors offer lessons and students learn (DeNeui & Dodge, 2006). Under the
blackboard learn system, academics or instructors generate content that they deem
appropriate, collect resources, divide the information into modules or tasks and upload it
into blackboard system for students (Norton & Hathaway, 2008).
1.8.1 Definition of blackboard
This is a learning management system, which also a platform created with a third
generation technology in order to handle courses and educational contents
(Socrates Centre for Learning, 2012). Blackboard provides powerful and easy-to-
use systems for educational instruction, communication, and assessment.
Blackboard Learn is the core academic program, which is used in course
management system for classroom and online educational assistance. It has its
competitors like Angel, eCollege, Linux, and Learning Space, as well as Open-
source learning systems such as The Sakai Project, Moodle, and uPortal. Despite
the drive toward new portal commodities, the Blackboard Learn has become the
dominant e-learning software (Douglas, 2012).
5
1.8.2 Blackboard features
The blackboard homepage provides overall system information (as shown in
figure 1). It includes My Courses, Tools, Announcements, My task, My calendar,
Mobile learning updates, Assessment, and other information related to the
course. Teaching/ learning materials (as shown in figure 2), in the form of
PowerPoint slides, MS Word, Acrobat PDF documents, and Video files can be
presented through Blackboard-learn to students, anytime and anywhere as long
as there is internet connection. The system has also the textbook’s information,
assessment, multimedia content, advanced quiz and survey tools, Excel
compatibility grade book, easy document sharing, built-in-ant-plagiarism service
(Turnitin) and the discussion board as a useful tool for both instructors and
students. Instructors can post materials and instructions on how to prepare for an
upcoming lecture, while the students can post any queries they have regarding
the subject, from questions about assignments, to technical problems with the
website (Shu-Sheng Liaw, 2007).
According to Bouhnik & Marcus (2006), blackboard has advantages on students
like;
Freedom to express thoughts and ask questions without limitations
The accessibility to the course‘s online materials at students own time.
Capper (2001) also listed blackboard benefits as the following:
Any time
The students may access the learning system at any time that is
convenient as long as they are connected to internet
Any place
The students do not have to meet when using blackboard
Asynchronous interaction
6
Interaction on the system can be more concise and discussion can stay
more on track
Group collaboration
The electronic messaging creates new opportunities for groups to work
together by creating shared electronic conversations and discussions.
1.9 Definition of concepts
Blackboard learn
According to Socrates Centre for Learning (2012), blackboard learn is the platform
created with third generation technology in order to handle courses and educational
contents; by bringing together face to face and online teaching-learning benefits via
hybrid courses.
Learning Management system (LMS)
Hall (2001) defines learning management system as software that automates the
administration of training events. The system manages the log-in of registers users,
manages course catalogues, record data from students and provides reports to
management.
Stakeholders
Oohnson & Scholes (2002: 206), define stakeholders as those individuals or groups
who depend on the institution to fulfil their own goals and on whom, in turn, the
institution depends.
Investment
According to Paul (2010), investment is something that is worth buying in
anticipation that it may be profitable or of more benefit in future.
Research design
7
This is the plan to be followed to realise the research objectives or hypothesis and it
depicts the master plan that specifies the methods and procedures of collecting and
analysing requires information (Tustin, Ligthelm, Martins and Van Wyk, 2005:82).
The research design for the study was descriptive; hence it used quantitative
research methods, because was using questionnaires only. The main reason for
using the mentioned design is to allow the respondents to complete close ended
questionnaires. Quantitative research, generally involves the collection of primary
data from large numbers of individuals with the intention of projecting the outcome
to a wider population (Tustin, 2005:89).
Study area
The study was conducted at the University of Limpopo (Turfloop campus) where the
sampling was from first and second year students who registered for education
degree.
Population
Welman and Kruger (2001:46) define population as the study object, which may be
individuals, groups, organisations, human product and events, or the conditions to
which they are exposed.
The research was conducted at the University of Limpopo, Turfloop campus, where
it directly focused on school of education and specifically for students who are in
second, third and fourth year levels. The three levels has the population of 1800
registered students, where one group of students are residing within the campus
and the other, outside the campus (University, integrated tertiary software, February
2014).
1.10 Sampling, sample methods and sampling size
A sample is a subset of the population. Non-probability sampling and purposive
sampling were used to get research participants. Non-probability samples are
instances in which the chances (probability) of selecting members from the population in
the sample are unknown (Tustin et al., 2005:344).
8
Purposive sampling is a sampling method in which the sample is chosen with a specific
purpose or objective in mind (Tustin et al., 2005:346). Purposive sampling here is
confined to specific types of people who can provide the desired information, either
because they are the ones who have it, or conform to some criteria set by the
researcher (Sekaran & Bougie, 2010:276).
This is the process of selecting the specific section from the population in order to
obtain information concerning the topic of the research in the way that represents the
targeted population (Brink, 2012). According to Burns and Grove (2003:31) sampling is
the process of selecting a group of people, events or behavior with which to conduct a
study. In general, sampling is related to generalization of the findings and in this
research, simple random sampling technique was used.
Sampling criteria: the researcher is going to provide the questionnaire to all second,
third and fourth year levels education students. Those students were a mixture of the
ones staying within the university residences and those who are staying outside the
university premises.
The total of my sampling was estimated at the minimum of 150 students, since the total
population is 1800.
1.11 Data collection
This is the systematic process of gathering information relevant to the research
purpose, questions, objectives or hypothesis of the study (Burns and Grove, 2005). For
the current study the researcher used the online questionnaire to gather data. The
permission was asked from the respondents by the researcher before the
questionnaires can be distributed to them during the specific period.
1.12 Data analysis
The purpose of data analysis is to interpret and draw conclusions from the mass of
collected data (Tustin, 2005:102). Data analysis was based on only one way of
collection, which is questionnaire. All the responses from the students were counted in
order to also check the spoiled questionnaires. At the end of the collection; data will be
9
analysed using SPSS program, tabulated and be simplified through the graphs and
charts.
1.13 Ethical considerations
This relates to moral standards that the researcher should follow in all research
methods in every stage of the research design ((Lo, 2004) and (Polit, 2001)). The
following are ethical considerations that need to be recognized before conducting the
research:
Permission to conduct the research: before the study is conducted, there is a
need to seek permission from the participants.
Informed consent: the researcher have to outline what the research is all about
and get the informed agreement before the research can be conducted.
Confidentiality: no form of identifying information will be recorded in order to
keep the information of the participants confidential.
Professionalism: points out the need for competence, judgment, diligence, self-
respect, and worthiness of the respect of other people.
Availability of results: the results of the study will be made accessible to
interested stakeholders (Lo, 2004).
1.14 Research Limitations
The recognised limitation of this research is the sample size of 500 second, third and
fourth years’ education students, with the total population of 1800. The scope of the
study is based on the impact of blackboard learn system on university of Limpopo
(Turfloop campus) student’s academic performance and will be confined by the
shortage of or inadequate of resources, in terms of costs and time available to
undertake the research. Another limitation for the study is that the research was focused
only on first and second year students doing education, not all the undergraduate
students in the degree of education.
10
1.15 Outline of the dissertation
Chapter 1
The chapter was concerned with the general outline of the overall study, concentrating
on introduction, reasons or rationale for the study, research problem, research
questions, and significance of the study and definition of the concepts.
Chapter 2: Literature review
This chapter outlined the literature review on the impact of blackboard on University of
Limpopo students’ academic progress, the tools used to access the blackboard system
and the difficulties encountered in accessing the system.
Chapter 3: Research methodology
The chapter focused on the methodology and the design of the study. There will be also
an outline on target population, sampling, sampling methods, instrument for data
collection and the analysis of the findings.
Chapter 4: Research results
This is where the results and data analysis of the study explained thoroughly, through
the graphs and charts.
Chapter 5: Conclusion and recommendations
In this chapter, the summary of the results, conclusion and recommendations were
outlined.
11
CHAPTER 2
LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 Introduction
Blackboard-learn is a learning management system, which also a platform created with
a third generation technology in order to handle courses and educational contents
(Socrates Centre for Learning, 2012). Blackboard provides powerful and easy-to-use
systems for educational instruction, communication, and assessment. Blackboard Learn
is the core academic program, which is used in course management system for
classroom and online educational assistance. It has its competitors like Angel, eCollege,
Linux, and Learning Space, as well as Open-source learning systems such as the Sakai
Project, Moodle, and uPortal. Despite the drive toward new portal commodities, the
Blackboard Learn has become the dominant e-learning software (Douglas, 2012).
Like other institutions of higher learning, University of Limpopo has also introduced
online learning management system to its academic community in order to keep pace
with the technological revolution in the higher educational fields. Given that the system
has some cost constraints; it is very important to investigate its impact to University of
Limpopo student community. These study is conducted in order to examine what impact
is the blackboard learn has as a learning management system for University of Limpopo
students.
Online environment like blackboard learn may provide a different type of learning
experience than traditional face to face contexts or printed material (Heirdsfield, 2011).
Blackboard is a learning management system that provides an instructor with a way to
deliver content, run the assessments, monitor student‘s participation and assess their
performance. Learning Management System may also provide students with the ability
to interactive features such as threaded discussions, emailing and discussion forums
(Sarachandran, 2012).
Apart from providing resources for private learners LMS may also add virtual dimension
to traditional campus-based study (Coates, 2007) and also facilitates mixed or blended
teaching and learning which combine online and on-campus components (Malikowski,
Thompson, & Theis, 2007). Blackboard-learn has the potential to change the way
12
instructors offer lessons and students learn (DeNeui & Dodge, 2006). Under the
blackboard learn system, academics or instructors generate content that they deem
appropriate, collect resources, divide the information into modules or tasks and upload it
into blackboard system for students (Norton & Hathaway, 2008).
2.2 History of Blackboard as a Learning Management System (LMS)
Blackboard-learn is the product of Blackboard Inc., which was founded in 1997 by two
educational advisors; Matthew Pittinsky and Michael Chasen. They were working under
a consulting firm, providing technical standards for online learning applications
(Bradford, 2007).
University of Limpopo purchased one of Blackboard Inc.‘s product lines, which is
academic suit Learning Management System called Blackboard-learn version 9.1 and is
used for online educational activities in general. The other suit is for commerce, of
which the institution did not show interest in it.
The vision of Blackboard Inc. was to provide an online user friendly platform means by
which college professors could put course information like; Announcements, discussion
topics, course outline, reference sites and study materials. In 1998 blackboard Inc.
merged with several companies like CourseInfo LLC, which was a course management
software provider and startup company at Cornell University; the merged company soon
released its first software product for online learning (Bradford, 2007).
Blackboard Inc. continued to grow rapidly and later in 2004 merged with its rival WebCT
e-learning company, then together it is estimated that they controlled up to 80 percent of
the academic course management system markets in North America, Europe, Asia and
Australia. Blackboard is being used in more than seventy percent of the U.S. colleges
and universities (Named to the Forbes .com). The Blackboard Inc.‘s products are
offered in 12 languages to over 2200 learning institutions and contain more than 2500
supplements from educational publishers. The latter is the reason why Blackboard‘s
empire was having over 12 million users in more than 60 countries across the globe
(Jayson, 2006).
13
Blackboard has grown exponentially with its role of adopting the learning management
software, some people would say the company is partially responsible for helping to
accelerate “a transition to active learning at scale” and the company is also given credit
for higher education ‘s adoption of online interactive software (Empson, 2012).
2.3 Blackboard features
Blackboard-learn homepage provides overall system information as in figure 2.1.
Figure 2.1: Blackboard-learn homepage
Source: Blackboard-learn
It includes My Courses, tools, Announcements, My task, my calendar, mobile learning
updates etc. the textbook’s information, assessment, and other information related the
course.
Figure 2.2, shows blackboard-learn content page of teaching and learning materials in
the form of PowerPoint slides, MS Word, Acrobat PDF documents, and video files
uploaded by instructors for students.
14
Figure 2.2: Course-page showing the course content
Source: Blackboard-learn
The system has also the textbook’s information, assessment, multimedia content,
advanced quiz and survey tools, Excel compatibility grade book, easy document
sharing, built-in-ant-plagiarism service (Turnitin) and the discussion board as a useful
tool for both instructors and students. Instructors can post materials and instructions on
how to prepare for an upcoming lecture, while the students can post any queries they
have regarding the subject, from questions about assignments, to technical problems
with the website (Liaw, 2007).
2.4 Benefits of blackboard learn as Learning Management system (LMS)
Blackboard learn may give academic staff and students potential benefit like increased
availability, quick feedback, improved two-way interactions, tracking, and building skills
such as organization, time management and communication (Bradford et al., 2006-
2007). Users always access blackboard learn through the internet anytime and
anywhere (DeNeui & Dodge, 2006) around the campus, where they can view and
download course materials and other information as well as submitting assignments
online as soon as they are complete.
15
Previous studies indicated that blackboard learn‘s availability is the feature that appeals
to students in general (Heirdsfield, Davis, Lennox, Walker and Zhang, 2007). Though
students may appreciate the convenience, they are generally dissatisfied with online
learning compared to traditional face to face teaching and learning (Pillay, Irving and
Tones, 2007).
According to Ellis, Ginns and Piggott (2009) learning management system such as
blackboard has three types of interactivity that act as the evident of its usage, that is,
student to content interaction, student to instructor interaction and student to student
interaction.
Student to content interaction
This type of interaction occurs when the student interacts with instructional content such
as lessons within modules, online readings, and online videos.
Student to instructor interaction
This type of interaction occurs when the instructor directly interacts with the student
either to deliver instructional content or to provide direct feedback regarding student
performance. Examples include: discussion board forums, course announcements,
instant messaging, web conferencing (Adobe Connect Pro), video teleconferencing
(VTC), blogs, online journals, telephone, and email.
Student to student interaction
This type of interaction occurs when there is regular interaction among students.
Activities that foster student to student interaction are collaborative and student centred.
Examples include: group discussion threads in the form of discussion boards, blogs,
and wikis, and group assignments and projects.
Furthermore, blackboard interaction may occur synchronously; the online discussions
forums, email boards and blogs that happen in real time and have stronger sense of
social presence, whereas asynchronous online discussions allows students to interact
frequently with each other and with the instructor (Malikowski et al., 2007). The
asynchronous discussion have the advantage of allowing students to take time to
16
thoughtfully compose their responses before posting them online, however the
discussions have lack of immediacy and this makes the discussions unpopular for
students who may need help instantaneously (Gorski, Caspi and Trumper, 2004).
Considerably, increased interactions with instructors and other students provide
opportunities for knowledge building as much learning that occurs within social contexts
(Liaw, 2008). Beaudoin (2002) and Rovai & Barnum (2003) indicated that passive online
learning or lurking without participation produces poorer learning outcomes.
2.5 Advantages of Blackboard learn
Capper (2001) also listed blackboard benefits as the following:
Any time
The students may access the learning system at any time that is convenient as
long as they are connected to internet;
Any place
The students do not have to meet when using blackboard;
Asynchronous interaction
Interaction on the system can be more concise and discussion can stay more on
track and;
Group collaboration
The electronic messaging creates new opportunities for groups to work together
by creating shared electronic conversations and discussions.
According to Bouhnik & Marcus (2006), blackboard has advantages on students like:
Freedom to express thoughts and ask questions without limitations;
The accessibility to the course‘s online materials at students own time.
17
2.6 Use of Blackboard learn in education- International perspective
Blackboard-learn has been internationally recognised as the learning management
system for online platform. Blackboard solutions are utilised by more than 3500 Higher
Educational institutions (HEIs), schools, governments and corporate settings in more
than seventy nations across the globe. Now that the global education imperative is
requiring re-examining and change in education, blackboard Inc. is studying the
changing global landscape in order to better serve higher education (Freedman, 2012).
The trend on online learning is reflected worldwide with government and educational
institutions promoting e-learning in Hong Kong (Leung and Li, 2006), Iran
(Bahreininejad, 2006), Canada (Luppiccini, 2008), Singapore (Kong, et al., 2006) and
China (Raaij and Schepers, 2008).
Most of online instructions take place within the Learning Management System such as
Blackboard learn, Sakai, Moodle and others; with Blackboard learn dominating the
online learning software market by far (Falvo and Johnson, 2007).
Bunce (2006) found that there are two different web-based delivering systems
presenting the same information influencing student’s engagement with the material
loaded by the instructors. A comparison between interactive television and Blackboard
learn communication tools revealed that blackboard platform is more conducive in
promoting a classroom learning community (Mash, 2005).
2.7 Use of Blackboard learn in education- South African perspective
Eiffel Corp; a South African online learning software company, as the official partner for
Turnitin and Blackboard in Africa since 1998, is the first company to provide or delivers
a holistic and innovative range of online services and products, through blackboard Inc.
for the African higher education communities (Van der Merwe, 2014).
The intake of ICTs, specifically Blackboard in South Africa’s higher education system
derived from organised institutional policy and support base. From South African‘s
higher education landscape; it was argued that despite ICTs usage having increased,
most institutions did not have comprehensive institutional visions or strategies on
implementation of ICTs in education (Cross and Adam, 2007).
18
Most South African higher education strategic plans advocate for a radical shift towards
total adoption of ICTs grounded teaching methodologies that take into account
individual student learning style. The strategies are said to have benefit on students;
like, helping to improve memory retention, increase motivation and understanding
(Dede, 1998), promote collaborative learning and problem solving activities (Forcheri
and Molfino, 2000).
Given the statement above; University of Limpopo has also adopted the use of ICTs
(Blackboard learn) in 2007 and it has been used extensively. The latter is what prompt a
researcher to carry out a study on the impact of blackboard learn as a learning
management system on University of Limpopo students.
According to Ngámbi and Czerniewicz (2007) the use of ICT’s is convenient in
addressing persistent teaching and learning challenges in South Africa. They further
said; challenges encompasses student diversity are deep rooted stemming from the
radically segregated apartheid legacy and large classes.
Makura (2014) further discovered that Higher Education Institutions (HEI’s) have
responded slowly to ICTs awareness and usage. The findings also pointed out that
fewer academics use few available ICTs, such as WebCT and Blackboard learn for
teaching and learning, which is a cause for concern for HEI’s.
University of Limpopo adhered to the concern raised by some higher educational bodies
and adopted the usage of Blackboard learn through its information technology and
communication department to enhance its teaching and learning processes (Author).
In order to encourage the adoption of blackboard learn to academic staff, the following
model was proposed by University of Limpopo‘s Information and Communication
Technology division to its management, adopted and utilised for blackboard training
(see figure 2.3).
19
Figure 2.3: University of Limpopo impact mo del for blackboard-learn training adoption model.
Source: Author
The impact model for blackboard training by ICT department was proposed in order to
facilitate the seamless training for the entire University of Limpopo‘s academic staff.
Currently the institution is having 500 Blackboard learn trained staff and more than 80
percent of students who are always active on the system. See figure 2.4 below;
Table 2.1: Blackboard users
Users
Student Users
2010-03
204
160
2012-03
17062
15356
2014-03
40225
37728
Source: Blackboard-learn
20
Source: Blackboard-learn
Figure 2.4: University of Limpopo Blackboard-learn user statistics from the year 2010 to 2014
21
2.7.1 Learning Management System and Higher Education (HE) Act
South African Minister of Higher Education Bonginkosi Emmanuel Nzimande, has
outlined in the education policy, the statement about ICTs in education that covers all
higher education institutions, including those which are having distance education
provision; it states as follows: “To be able to create an enabling environment for
appropriate integration of ICTs to enhance general education provision in both public
and private universities as well as other post-schooling institutions. The Department of
Higher Education and Training (DHET) will work to ensure that every post schooling
students has reasonable access to affordable connectivity” (Higher Education Act, 101
of 1997, Government notice No. 535, 7 July 2014).
In his policy speech for provision of distance education, Minister of Higher Education put
emphasis on Higher Education Act that there is a massive opportunity to utilize the
availability of technology to improve the quality of distance or visual education provision,
particularly with regard to increasing students engagement in global interactive studies
and support of remote students in particular. The Minister also outlined that; it has
become essential for Universities to have prepared their graduates to meaningful
participation in a digital world (Nzimande, 2014).
According to Dabbagh and Reo (2011), the creation of online environment comprises
the discussion and collaborative platforms where instructors design contents and
communication channels are beginning to make an impact on Higher education
environment. More over the skills required on blended or online learning environments,
align with the skills required by future employees in the international and national labour
market.
Internationally, there is a remarkable increase in the use of online courses while
blended or technology enhanced learning platforms have remained relatively constant.
However there is a sign that South Africa‘s Higher Education institutions are utilizing a
multi-modal approach in an effort of blending traditional face-to-face teaching and
learning with some Learning Management Systems, where students can be able to
access course content and activities like; online discussions, collaboration and online
assessments (Nagel and Kotze, 2011).
22
Evidently, the use of ICTs is seriously on the higher education agenda in South Africa.
At the administrative and technological infrastructure levels, all universities in the
country have committed substantial amounts of resources to providing appropriate
hardware and software in order to get information systems up and running. There is
also an increasing level of attention being paid to the pedagogic integration of ICTs into
university courses, sometimes with too much sense of the “technological tail wagging
the pedagogic dog”, but often with an appropriate caution about the potentials of ICTs to
provide solutions in regard to the improvement of South African higher education. Most
importantly, there is an emerging research community which looks increasingly like it
will make a critical and contextualised contribution to central academic debates in the
area internationally. What is clear is that ICTs are now very much part of the higher
education landscape in the country, and it is incumbent on all of us to make sure they
work in ways that are educationally sound, and not simply for their own sake (Ian,
2007).
2.7.2 Learning Management System and Council of Higher Education (CHE)
The Council of Higher Education is also promoting ICT enhanced teaching and learning
in all South African universities. There are several e-learning centres that are
established in some universities, such as University of Fort Hare, University of Western
Cape, Cape Peninsula University of Technology in order to enhance teaching and
learning (ICTs and Higher Education in Africa, 2007).
Given the hype around the importance of e-Learning in higher education, at least at the
level of provision of ICT infrastructure, all South African universities seems to have
some form of dedicated information technology department. Most also appears to have
a centre concerned with the support of e-learning in some way or another, although
there are relatively few dedicated individuals doing this work (ICTs and Higher
Education in Africa, 2007).
2.8 Blackboard learn as a Learning Management System in University of Limpopo
Like most universities, University of Limpopo has joined scores of movements in
bridging the digital divide with an effort to break all boundaries and links for every
student in both Turfloop and MEDUNSA campuses with the power of Information and
23
communication technologies (ICTs), intermediated by the Learning Management
System (LMS), called Blackboard learn. In the context of this study, Blackboard-learn
has been chosen by the university management and its deployment has been planned
and implemented four (4) years ago. The Director of Academic Computing Support
Services, which is the section under Information and Technology Division of the
institution, indicated that the research has revealed that University of Limpopo students
have keen interest in using ICTs for collaborative and self-directed learning (Rahimi,
2002).
Blackboard-learn provides tools to students and instructors in order to technologically
enhance teaching and learning experience. More specifically, Blackboard learn has an
assessment tool which is able to provide a simple solution for our lecturers who find it
not easy to create and administer quality continuous assessment, timeous quality
feedback to their large classes, as requested by Higher Education authority. It must
however be noted that Blackboard tools are just that, they are tools and like a hammer,
garden hose or high pressure cleaner, efficacy is largely dependent on how the tool is
utilised. Blackboard-learn affords lecturers and students with the opportunity to move a
large part of the learning environment online in order to facilitate better managed
contact sessions (Riley, 2013).
Some of the common Blackboard-learn tools used in University of Limpopo (UL) include
the following (UL blackboard-learn system, 2010):
Announcements
The announcements tool allows for the lecturer to broadcast announcements to his or
her class by way of electronic communication. Announcements function as an electronic
notice board and alleviating the need for students to come onto campus unnecessarily
for notices concerning their courses.
Email
The email tool in Blackboard-learn functions in the same way as other email
applications. The Blackboard-learn email however, is specifically linked to enrolled
24
groups and allows for small group or individual communication between group members
and between students and lecturers.
Discussion tools
Discussion tools are divided into three categories: threaded discussions; blogs and
journals. Threaded discussions can be initiated by students or staff and the ‘threaded’
nature of the discussions makes for the easy following of an argument or discussion
topic. Students can also utilise threaded discussions as an open forum for solutions to
commonly-held campus or course-based issues, questions or challenges, the utilisation
of the tool is at the discretion of the users and as such is user-driven. Blogs, which are
part of discussion tools, can be described as a narrative posted by either staff or
students and can be set up as either open for comment with a read-only setting. Blog
topics can be utilised by the lecturers to initiate discussion or as a mini-presentation to
the group by individual students on a specific topic to which grades can be assigned
(Riley, 2013).
Assessment tools
The assessment tools available on Blackboard pertain specifically to traditional test-type
assessments. These are in the form of quizzes; surveys and self-tests. The quiz option
is employed for graded assessments providing the lecturer with a selection of question
types including but not limited to Multiple Choice Questions; True/False; matching;
calculated; short or long answer questions. While many of the options allow for pre-
determined answers and instant marking upon submission, some question types such
as short or long answer questions will require a level of lecturer input prior to the results
being released to the students.
Assignment tool
Assignment tools afford the student the opportunity to submit their assignments online.
The lecturers then have the option of reviewing the assignment online or printing the
assignment for manual marking.
25
Calendar tool
The calendar tool is essentially a self-management tool providing staff and students
automated notifications of assignment due dates, assessment dates and course related
events. Students also have the option to personalise their own calendars.
The Blackboard -learn tools outlined above are limited only by the user in terms of staff
and students and present extensive opportunities for the enhancement of teaching and
learning. Increased student utilization of the system has without question impacted on
the ability of the lecturers to engage with students in the same way as they had
traditionally. The online or blended learning tools have been identified as possible
solutions to some of the challenges experienced by lecturers teaching large classes.
Additionally, the Higher Education and Training (HET) context and business landscape
is changing as a result of the inception of the Information Age, requiring new sets of
skills by graduates entering the workforce including those skills required to navigate and
effectively utilise online learning opportunities. Hence, Blackboard-learn provide
potential solution not only in terms of managing large classes but also by affording
lecturers and students the opportunity to engage with knowledge in a way applicable to
the 21st Century (Riley, 2013).
The number of students using Blackboard has been increasing continuously since the
inception of the impact model (figure2.3) in the year 2010. The overall usage of
Blackboard-learn has been increased from 204 on March 2010 to 40225 in March 2014;
the statistics includes student and instructor users. Since all the registered students
have an account on blackboard and they are always introduced to blackboard learn
system, the challenge is always on their lecturers to load all the required materials for
them on blackboard learn platform. Blackboard learn platform generally give students
excitement because it enhance students to instructor communication and make the
instructors to be more accessible with the aid of discussion board, e-mail and virtual
chart (Blackboard-learn system, 2010).
Lecturers who are actively using the blackboard learn system find it so convenient to
create assessment, announcements and discussions online other than taking time and
26
energy to manually mark assessments, post information traditional notice boards
(University of Limpopo Witness, 2014).
2.8.1 Blackboard learn access for students staying in university‘s residences
2.8.1.1 Computer laboratories
The university has done the least it could in trying to improve students access to ICTs
within the campus in general. To improve access to ICTs, the institution has ten (10)
general computer laboratories which have the total of seven hundred and forty 740
personal computers dedicated to every registered University of Limpopo students
(University of Limpopo Witness, 2014).
The laboratories are managed and maintained by one manager assisted by more than
sixty (60) laboratory assistants, who are registered students of the institution. These
students work three (3) hours per day for the maximum of four (4) days. The following
laboratories can be found at Turfloop campus, where the study is taking place:
Thintana General Computer Laboratories
This is composed of four (4) biggest general computer laboratories, with the capacity of
hundred (100) personal computers each. The laboratories are well organised and each
equipped with a set of ceiling mounted data projector with 3 x 3 metres electric screen.
These laboratories are casually used for formal classes, which are booked in advanced
by the lecturer who is going to run the lesson using computers (Author).
R-block general computer Laboratories
In this venue, the institution has three laboratories used for both general usage and
booking purposes. Their capacities and size differs and the bigger laboratory is having
seventy (70) personal computers and the other same size laboratories are having thirty
(30) personal computers each.
M-block general Computer Laboratories
The M-block venue is also having three (3) general computer laboratories, wh ere the
biggest one carries the capacity of ninety (90) personal computer, the bigger carries fifty
27
(50) personal computers and last one has the capacity of thirty-five (35) personal
computers; the biggest and the smallest laboratories are for general usage and booking
for lessons, whereas the bigger laboratory is specifically used by the post-graduate
students (Author).
2.8.1.2 University hotspot areas
For more access to internet, the institution again introduced wireless network around
the campus. There are several hotspot areas that are placed in some specific locations.
The areas are within undergraduate student residences and the outside, the students
lecture halls and the surroundings, the library and the university‘s hall; students can be
connected to the internet, using their unique usernames and passwords provided by
Information Communication and Technology division anytime in those hotspot areas for
ease of access (Author).
As more and more students are owning laptops, which are used to access internet
resources; the institution‘s effort to increase access has been improved. Some of the
students are using smart phones for ICTs access; the use of smart phones to access
blackboard learn is called mobile learn. Blackboard mobile learn is when users are able
to use their smart phones to perform all activities like emailing, announcements, mobile
compatible assessments, browsing course material and checking their assessment
grades (Author).
2.8.2 Blackboard learn access for students staying outside university‘s
residences
About 48% of University of Limpopo students are residing outside the campus; this is a
disadvantage for them, because the only way to get access to ICTs is during the day
when they are not attending lessons. Although most of them are using mobile learning,
it does not make much difference because at the end of the day, they have to type their
assignments in word format and submit them through blackboard learn system (UL
Integrated Tertiary System (ITS) report)
The other option students are using for access is buying 3G wireless connection
(Modem), even though to maintain it is expensive, they do not have an alternative. The
institution is not doing anything as far as assisting students with ICTs access is
28
concerned, because they (students) are just scattered in the surrounding community
residences, where it is not easy to provide them with wireless hot-spot areas (Author).
2.9 Conclusion
Although there are challenges depicted by some articles, the university ‘s drive to equip
its students with the use of technology in order to enhance their learning and have
competitive graduates in the labour market, coupled with the need to the usage of
responsive and innovative teaching and learning methodologies looking at large and
diverse classes translated into the identification of blackboard learn as the possible
solution to improve teaching and learning experiences of both students and staff at the
institution. The introduction of blackboard learn in the University of Limpopo has brought
some visible changes in teaching and learning. Lecturers are finding it easy to conduct
large classes; they usually find it difficult to offer a quality lesson and control. Students
are now able to get material for a lesson before they can attend classes, conveniently
interacting with other students, interacting with their instructors and interacting with the
content in advance.
The institution has been using the blackboard learn system for five years now and there
has not been a formal research to measure the impact of the system to the students
and the value for the institution ‘s money in general. This is the reason the study is
being conducted.
29
CHAPTER 3
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
3.1 Introduction
The primary objective of the study is to investigate the impact of blackboard-learn on
University of Limpopo (UL) students’ academic performance. The study is conducted in
the school of education.
This study attempts to look at the impact that blackboard learn system has on University
of Limpopos performance and move to maintain the ongoing positive standard that may
be visible after the research. The chapter outlines the method employed for the
purposes of the study focusing on the chosen research paradigm, design and
methodology. There is provision of the rationale for the use of the chosen paradigm
and research design with descriptions of the research methods employed, and the
sample for this study. The chapter also outlined the methods of data collection and the
processes engaged with regards to data management and analysis.
The researcher focused on blackboard-learn related experiences of different
participants and each experience will be outlined and explained extensively in reference
to the study.
The study concentrated on the main research question and sub-questions like the
following:
How do students benefit from using Blackboard-learn as a learning management
system to enhance their academic performance?
Sub questions:
How do students use blackboard-learn to access course materials, emailing and
collaboration?
What makes students to find it easier and convenient to use blackboard learn?
How does blackboard learn tools influence student’s performance?
30
3.2 Research approach and design
The research design is the science and art of planning procedures for conducting
studies so as to get the most valid findings or results (Vogt, 1993). It also gives a
detailed plan for guiding and focusing the research. The research design refers to the
overall strategy that you choose to integrate the different components of the study in a
coherent and logical way, thereby, ensuring you will effectively address the research
problem; it constitutes the blueprint for the collection, measurement, and analysis of
data. Note that your research problem determines the type of design you can use, not
the other way around (Sage, 2001).
The choice of the research design in this study is quantitative, which is the measure of
the amounts and quantities of one or more variables using the accepted measures of
physical world or psychological characteristics or behaviors, example; questionnaires or
rating scales (Babbie & Mouton, 2012). According to De Vos (2011) it is a systematic
collection of numerical information often under conditions of considerable control and
use of statistics to analyses data.
The study of the impact of Blackboard learn as a Learning Management System to
University of Limpopo education students is observational, because there is no
introduction of the new program, but an analysis based on the existing conditions and
activities on the system. The researcher looked at the impact of blackboard system in
education students when using it for learning (Buller, 2008).
The online survey is type of descriptive quantitative research- which employs strategies
of inquiry such as experiments and surveys, and collects data on predetermined
instruments that yield statistical data; this was used in order to acquire information
about the impact of blackboard system on University of Limpopo, School of education
students. The quantitative method was used because it was easier to analyse numeric
data from the online survey and the study was aimed to test hypothesis, whether each
independent variable had positive impact on the students’ performance or not (Creswell,
2003).
31
3.2.1 Case study
According to Hancock and Algozzine (2006), a case study is “an empirical inquiry that
investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context, especially when
the boundaries between the phenomenon and the context are not clearly evident. It
allows the investigation to retain the holistic and meaningful characteristics of real-life
events such as individual life cycles, organizational and managerial processes,
neighborhood change, international relations, and the maturation of industries. A case
study, in other words, is a story about something unique.
This study will investigate the impact of blackboard learning management system on
school of education students in University of Limpopo and how the system affects their
general performance.
Willis (2007: 238) identifies the following distinguishing features of a case study:
Particularistic the focus of the study is specific ;
Naturalistic the data collected is real in the sense that it emanates from a
natural setting comprising of human beings in real situations;
Thick descriptive data data sources can be numerous and varied in that they
can include but are not limited to interviews, observations, journal reflections,
diaries, surveys and tests;
Inductive case studies are inductive in nature in that while the focus of the
study is specific, general conclusions may be drawn from the data collected;
Heuristic case studies afford the researcher the opportunity to gain a deeper
understanding of the phenomenon in question, thus either broadening their
knowledge base or confirming pre-existing assumptions.
Lichtman (2006) notes that the limitations of a case study are broad in the sense that an
object may constitute a case study but by the same argument, a case study may also
be an entire group, school or university. Lichtman (2006) asserts that conceptualization
of what constitutes the case study needs to be clearly defined by the researcher before
32
embarking on the research. Willis (2007) categorizes disparities in the case study
method of enquiry and in doing so makes the following classifications: Ethnographic
case study; Micro ethnographic case study; Situational analysis; Historical case study;
Historical organizational case study; Life history case study, Psychological, Sociological
and educational case study; Descriptive case study and Interpretive case study. This
study can be identified as an Educational case study as the focus is on the impact of
blackboard as a learning management system on University of Limpopo (Education)
students performances within an educational context.
The study of the impact of Blackboard-learn as Learning Management System for
University of Limpopo students is a descriptive and explanatory case study, which is
mostly for evaluation purposes. Ideally, a case study evaluation design would utilize a
combination of both to examine not only the phenomenon (the project and its outputs,
outcomes and impacts) in its context, but also, if possible, attribute causation and/or
correlation so as to highlight and enhance best practices (Yin, 1994).
The advantages of case study are that it allows for thorough in-depth analysis,
contribute to establish casual relationships between interventions and their immediate
results, incorporates various research techniques within one focused case study which
strengthens the credibility of results and also tends to provide strong evidence to
support casual relationships between specific interventions and specific outcomes and
or impacts (Hancock & Algozzine, 2006).
The disadvantages are that case study focuses only on one causal relationship, leaving
out potential others, difficult to generalize to other situations and cannot establish with
pure certainly pure causality between specific interventions and positive changes on a
large scale (Hancock & Algozzine, 2006).
3.2.2 Research approach
This study is quantitative in nature. According to Babbie (2010) quantitative methods
emphasize on objective measurements and numerical analysis of data collected
through polls, questionnaires or surveys. The model focuses on gathering numerical
data and generalizing it across groups of people. This is a descriptive study which
establishes only association between variables. The research will deal with numbers,
33
logic, and an objective stance and focuses on logic, numbers, and unchanging static
data and detailed, convergent reasoning rather than divergent reasoning (Longman,
2011).
The main features of quantitative research are that:
Data is usually gathered using structured research instruments.
The results are based on larger sample sizes that are representative of the
population.
The research study can usually be replicated or repeated, given its high
reliability.
Researcher has a clearly defined research question to which objective answers
are sought.
All aspects of the study are carefully designed before data is collected.
Data are in the form of numbers and statistics.
Project can be used to generalize concepts more widely, predict future results, or
investigate causal relationships.
Researcher uses tools, such as questionnaires or computer software, to collect
numerical data.
The overarching aim of a quantitative research study is to classify features, count them,
and construct statistical models in an attempt to explain what is observed (Babbie,
2010).
Quantitative approach
This is the approach used to quantify the problem by way of generating numerical data
or data that can be transformed into useable statistics. It is used to quantify attitudes,
opinions, behaviors, and other defined variables and generalize results from a larger
sample population. Its methods of data collection include different forms of surveys such
34
as online surveys, paper surveys, mobile surveys and kiosk surveys, face-to-face and
interviews. The study use quantitative approach since it is concerned with the numbers
and frequencies in which the blackboard learn system has an impact on University of
Limpopo students, who specifically are enrolled in School of Education (Wyse, 2011).
Online survey services are an increasingly popular way to create, distribute and analyse
quantitative questionnaires. They allow you to create your survey using a survey editor
and select from many types of questions (multiple choice, rating scales and drop-down
menus). Options available allow you to require answers to any question, control the
flow with custom skip logic, and even randomize answer choices to eliminate bias;
therefore blackboard online survey was used to collect data for this particular research
and SPSS together with Microsoft excel, were used to analyse the data (Janssen,
2010).
This study was descriptive because it complied with the characteristics of descriptive
research as stipulated by Brink and Wood (1998) and Creswell (2002).
Descriptive designs are used for the development of a database for any science.
In this study, databases about students who are using blackboard learn system
for their studies has been sampled.
Demographic information obtained that could aid in describing the population of
students who are using the university’s computer laboratories and those who are
using their personal resources to access the blackboard system.
Descriptive studies are used when the characteristics of a population are either
unknown or partially known. In this study the characteristics of students who are
using the university‘s computer laboratories and those who are using their
personal resources to access the blackboard system may be visible by the way
of performance.
3.4 Data collection
According to Cooper & Schindler (2006) data collection is the process of collecting and
quantifying information on variables of interest, in a conventional systematic fashion that
35
allows one to respond to specified research questions, test hypotheses, and evaluate
results.
Quantitative data collection was used in this research, which involves the use of
numbers to assess information. This information can then be evaluated using statistical
analysis which offers researchers the opportunity to dig deeper into the data and look
for greater meaning (Cooper & Schindler, 2006).
The researcher used the blackboard online survey system to load questionnaire so that
the participants can respond online. The questionnaires were uploaded on the system
and the link to the questionnaire was loaded to the students individual course and
completed by the respondent with no interviewer involvement.
The researcher chose to use self-administered questionnaires because they ensure
anonymity and privacy of respondents thereby encouraging honest responses. They
also proved to have a higher response rate than other data gathering techniques like
mail surveys, and they are less expensive than other methods where the researcher
must be with respondents at all times like personal interviews (Cooper & Schindler,
2006:256). Dichotomous, multiple choice, scaled, open ended and closed ended
questions were used in the research.
Sophisticated statistical technique like Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS)
program was used to analyse the response from the survey. SPSS is a statistical
analysis and data management software package that can take data from almost any
type of file and use them to generate tabulated reports, charts, and plots of distributions
and trends, descriptive statistics and conduct complex statistical analysis (Shin, 1998).
This package enables you to analyse data more fully than using a spreadsheet program
such as Microsoft Excel. Although superficially it looks like a spreadsheet it does not
work in the same way. You cannot for example sum a row of figures by inserting a
formula in a cell. Instead, the data is entered in columns, with each column being set up
as a separate, defined variable. The data is then worked on using the menus to provide
output (tables, graphs, and statistics) in a separate window.
36
3.5 Data analysis
This is the technique that strives to understand the patterns of collected data by using
statistical modelling, measurement and research. The technique is done by assigning
numerical values to specific variables, were the researcher will try to reproduce certainty
in a scientific manner (Friedberg, 2013).
According to Hawkins (2007), data analysis is also the process of transforming raw data
into usable information, often presented in the form of a published analytical article in
order to add value to the statistical output.
The advantage of quantitative data analysis is that:
It can allow for greater objectivity and accuracy of results. Generally, quantitative
methods are designed to provide summaries of data that support generalisations
about the phenomenon under study. In order to accomplish this, quantitative
research usually involves few variables and many cases, and employs
prescribed procedures to ensure validity and reliability
It is using standards means that the research can be replicated, and then
analysed and compared with similar studies. Kruger (2003) confirms that
'quantitative methods allow us to summarize vast sources of information and
facilitate comparisons across categories and over time'
Is capable of limiting biasness in researchers, by keeping a 'distance' from
participating subjects and employing subjects unknown to them
Data was validated, edited, coded, entered and cleaned before analysis was done.
According to Coakes (2005), the above mentioned steps are very crucial before data is
analysed. This study used Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) as the
statistical software for data analysis. IBM SPSS statistics 22 is software used for
performing statistical procedures in the social sciences field (Coakes, 2005).
Data analysis was done using chi-square, Cronbach’s Alpha test, non-parametric chi-
squared one-variable test and descriptive statistics. The Chi-square test for
37
independence was used to test for association while cross tabulation was used to
determine the distribution of respondents. Further data analysis for this study included
descriptive statistics which makes use of tables, graphs and percentages
3.6 Population
Polit and Hungler (1999) refer to the population as an aggregate or totality of all the
objects, subjects or members that conform to a set of specifications. In this study the
population was second to fourth year students in school of education. Blackboard online
enterprise survey was used to distribute questionnaires to the whole targeted
population, which made it easy for the researcher to collect data. The research was
solely focused on the above defined population because of time constrains. The total
targeted population was 1800 students.
3.7 Sample
Sampling is the process of selecting a portion of the population to represent the entire
population (LoBiondo-Wood & Haber 1998; Polit & Hungler 1999). Education students
from 2nd, 3rd and 4th level of their studies were selected. The whole population of the
targeted group was 1800 and the sample was 500 participants. This was done in order
to analyse and interpret manageable data, as vast amounts of data would have been
not easy to finish within the time constrains.
3.7.1 Sampling technique
According to Babbie and Mouton (2001), sampling involves the process of selecting
subjects for the purposes of a study.
This study uses simple randomized sampling technique, which is the subset of
statistical population in which each member of the subset has an equal probability of
being chosen; this technique is unbiased representation of a group. An example of the
technique is the same group of 500 students chosen from the online survey system of
1800 students. In this case the population is 1800 students and the sample is random
because each student has an equal chance of being chosen (Barreiro and Albandoz,
2001).
38
A sample is also a subset of a population selected to participate in the study, it is a
fraction of the whole, selected to participate in the research project (Brink 1996; Polit &
Hungler 1999). Babbie & Mouton (2001) note that probability sampling is suitable for
social science research where there is a need of questionnaire to complete in order to
facilitate the success of the study
Self-designed questionnaires were used to gather primary data from the participants.
The questionnaire was divided into four sections. Sections A comprised of general and
demographical information about the students and were they access Blackboard learn,
B focuses on how students consider blackboard learn as the tool to enhance their
academic performance, C looks at the factors that can hinder students from improving
their academic performance through blackboard learn system, and D focuses on the
impact of blackboard as learning management system on students’ performance.
All sections have multiple choice, opinion scale/ Likert and open ended questions,
except for section A, which is without open-minded question.
3.8 Reliability and validity
There is always a chance that some questions could cause problems, hence
questionnaire testing is needed to identify and eliminate such problems (Sudman &
Blair, 1998; Sattari, 2007). This gives rise to the need to ensure validity and reliability.
The researcher used the pilot study to make sure that the findings will be reliable and
valid. Pilot study is a mini version of a full scale study or trial done in preparation for
complete study; it can also be a pre-testing of research instruments like questionnaires
or interview schedule (Teijlingen & Hundley, 2001). This study used blackboard-learn
online survey, were the link of the questionnaire was sent to six students requested to
complete the questions online.
Reliability was also enhanced by using the supervisor of this study to review the
questionnaire for question phrasing and sequencing, and also by consulting a
statistician. The fact that open-ended questions were minimized in the questionnaire
also enhanced reliability of the data.
39
For a research instrument to be reliable, it has to produce valid results. According to
Cooper and Schindler (2006), reliability is a necessary contributor to validity but it is not
a sufficient condition for validity. This means that validity also has to be assured when
conducting research.
Reliability and validity are undoubtedly the assurances of good measurements and the
keys to assessing the credibility of any research study. Validity refers to whether an
instrument actually measures what it is supposed to measure given the context in which
it is applied. Reliability is the degree of consistency with which the instrument measures
an attribute (Polit & Hungler 1999). It further refers to the extent to which independent
administration of the same instrument yields the same results under comparable
conditions (De Vos, 1998). The less variation the instrument produces in repeated
measurements of an attribute the higher the reliability. There is also a relationship
between reliability and validity. An instrument which is not valid cannot possibly be
reliable (Polit & Hungler 1999).
To ensure validity, a statistician and the supervisors were consulted to evaluate the
research instrument. A statistician was also engaged to carry out statistical tests on the
validity of the questionnaire and the results obtained were positive. The questionnaire
was pre-tested through pilot study before it was used to collect data.
3.9 Ethical considerations
According to Lombard (2002), ethics deal with the development of moral standards that
can be applied to situations in which there can be actual or potential harm to any
individual or a group. They are of particular concern to the researcher because their
success is based on public cooperation.
Researchers have some general obligations to people who provide data in research
studies which include the obligation not to harm, force or deceive participants (Roberts-
Lombard, 2002). Participants should be willing and informed and the data or information
they provide must be held in utmost confidence (Tustin, 2005).
40
Ethics were crucial for the successful accomplishment of this research work. This also
helped to reduce research errors that could have arose because other people who were
supposed to be part of the research have been excluded or refused to participate.
According to Babbie and Mouton (2001) ethical considerations should form part of every
research study. The following are ten dubious practices in social research which have
been adapted by the researcher as ethical guidelines (Robson, 2002);
It is unethical to:
Involve people in research without their knowledge or consent;
Coerce people to participate in research;
Withhold information from participants about the true nature of the research;
Otherwise deceive the participant;
Induce participants to commit acts which may lead to diminished self-esteem;
Violate rights of self-determination;
Expose participants to physical or mental stress;
Invade the privacy of the participants;
Withhold benefits of participating in the research from some of the participants;
Treat participants unfairly or without consideration or without respect.
The principles above have been utilised by the researcher as guidelines the
development of ethical protocol in this research, thus ensuring the safety and anonymity
of the students (participants) at all times and levels.
3.10 Research exclusions and limitations
The study was limited to University of Limpopo students registered to school of
education. Only 2nd, 3rd and 4th year education students who are using Blackboard learn
system for their studies were taking part in the study. There were some of the students
41
or participants who did not answer all the questions and that yields to sample loss of
approximately less than one percentage.
Otherwise there was no computer literacy problem as all students knew how to use the
blackboard-learn system and the online survey was user-friendly, simple and straight
forward.
3.11 Participant’s consent
Participation in the study voluntary and before questionnaires are sent out and
interviews are conducted participants were informed. Opening channels were indicated
that participants have the right to know what the research is about and how it will affect
them (Neuman, 2011).
3.11.1 Confidentiality
The students were provided with a covering letter outlining the study and informing the
students of their role in the study. The questionnaire was conducted online using the
Blackboard Learning Management System enterprise survey as a method of
deployment. The covering letter was published on the student participant’s webpage,
immediately before clicking the start of the survey button. In order to provide the
students with the opportunity to clarify any issues pertaining to the research, the
researcher read the covering letter out to the students during class time.
The online survey was available to students for three weeks and set up in such a way
that the anonymity of the students was adhered to. All participants in this study have
been assured complete anonymity and as such no personally identifiable information
has been made available in any way.
3.12 Summary
This chapter dealt with the research design that had been followed in this study,
addressing the population, sampling procedure, data collection technique/ instrument
and data collection procedure. Measures were adhered to in order to enhance the
validity and reliability of the research results. Ethical concerns which could have
impacted on the survey were attended to.
42
The following chapter will presented the analysis and discussion of the data obtained
from online questionnaire of twenty-two (22) different questions, that were completed by
500 respondents/ students who are utilising blackboard-learn as their learning
management system in university of Limpopo’s School of Education from 2nd ,3rd and 4th
level of study.
The purpose was to determine if students consider blackboard as the tool to enhance
their academic performance, identify factors that could hinder students from improving
their performance through blackboard-learn system, and lastly, looks at the impact of
blackboard as a learning management system on students’ performance.
This chapter highlights the different methods applied in the execution of this study,
whereby the research population was selected through random sampling. It also gave a
full detailed explanation of research instruments used namely, SPSS and online
questionnaires.
The data collected was analysed and processed by means of calculating mean scores
and for the reliability of the data the weighted rank method would be applied. Tables
and graphs would be used to present data collected. The next chapter focused on the
analysis and interpretations of the data collected.
Finally, the researcher reflected on the importance of addressing ethical issues related
to the study. This included the identification of accepted ethical principles and the active
use of carefully designed informed consent, permission forms and detailed covering
letters. The next chapter presented the analysis of collected data.
43
CHAPTER 4
ANALYSIS AND PRESENTATION OF THE RESULTS
4.1 Introduction
In every study, there is a necessity to analyze the collected data in order to test the
hypothesis and answering the research questions for fulfilment of proper completion of
the research. The analysis and interpretation of data is based on the results of the
online questionnaire, which is the quantitative analysis of data.
This chapter focused on the analysis and interpretation of data that was collected in the
study. Data analysis entails that the analyst should break down data into constituents’
parts to obtain answers to the research questions and test the hypotheses. Research
data analysis does not only provide the answers to the research questions. When the
researcher interprets the results, he/ she studies them for their meaning and
implications (De Vos, 1998 & Grabzy, 2013).
In general, this chapter is concerned with data analysis and findings from 2nd, 3rd and
4th year education students in University of Limpopo. The purpose of this study was to
look at the impact of blackboard-learn as a learning management system for university
of Limpopo students.
The objectives of the study were as follows:
To determine if students consider blackboard learn as the tool to enhance their
academic performance;
To find out barriers that could hinder students from improving their academic
performance through blackboard learn;
To evaluate the impact of blackboard learn as a learning management system on
university of Limpopo students.
Blackboard enterprise online questionnaires was presented to all education students
who are in 2nd, 3rd and 4th year levels of their study, where ethics and letter of request
were explained clearly to them by the researcher and their lecturer before they can start
with completion of the questionnaire.
44
The total of five hundred (500) out of one thousand eight hundred (1800) students
participated in the completion of the questionnaire with the response rate of 62.5% and
data were statistically analysed by a university statistician, using SPSS version 22. The
results are interpreted in accordance to the sections of the questionnaire with reference
to the main objectives.
The sections of the questionnaire are as follows:
Section A (biographical/ demographical information)
Section B (To determine if blackboard-learn is a tool to enhance students’
academic performance).
Section C (To find factors that could hinder students from improving their
academic performance through blackboard-learn).
Section D (To look at the impact of blackboard as a learning management
system on students’ performance)
The responses from the questions on the above objectives were used to interpret the
findings.
4.2 Results and discussions
The total number of targeted population was 800 students, who are registered in
education courses, and the sample size was consisted of 500 online respondents and
this number is taken as a best representation of the selected population of 2nd to 4th
year level of school of education students.
The respondents were male and female, 2nd to 4th year level students who are
accessing blackboard-learn system in different places. Data was collected from
blackboard online enterprise survey system, anlysed and interpreted. The following
section is about the presentation of the main results, which will be reported and
illustrated by means of charts, graphs and tables. The results are also matched to the
existing practical evidence to evaluate uniformity.
45
4.2.1 Response rate
From table 4.1 below, is visible that the total of one thousand eight hundred (1800)
students were targeted to complete the blackboard online survey, but five hundred (500)
respondents were recorded and the total of three hundred (300) were not recorded
since one hundred and nine (109) did not respond, sixty-one (61) were not available
and hundred and thirty (130) were discarded due to too many unanswered questions or
irrelevant responses.
The discarding of some questions was needed in order to obtain clean data before it
can be loaded on the system for analysis. The table shows us the total clear response
rate of 62.5%, which is reasonable enough for accurate results.
4.2.2 Descriptive statistical analysis
Descriptive statistical analysis was used to identify frequencies and percentages to
answer all of the questions in the questionnaire. Not all respondents answered all of the
questions therefore percentages reported correspond to the total number of students
answering the individual questions.
Data was summarized and presented by making use of descriptive statistics. Tables,
charts, graphs and percentages were used in the presentation of the findings. The
mean, standard deviation, minimum and maximum values for all scaled questions were
also computed and used in the explanation of the findings. The computed values of the
means and standard deviations are attached in the appendices section (see appendix
A).
Table 4.1: Response rate
Sample
Total
Percentages
Final sample
500
62.5
Non-response
109
13.6
Unavailable
61
7.6
Discarded
130
16.3
Original Sample
800
100
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4.3 Section A
This is the initial section of the research instrument which served to collect general
information relating to issues of gender, age, level of study, number of years in the
same level and places were students access blackboard-learn system.
The information assists the researcher to classify the respondents. These demographic
statistics constitute an essential part of the study as it provides basic information about
the respondents (Proctor, 2000)
4.3.1 Biographical/ demographical statistics
Table 4.2: Gender
Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid
Male
229
45.8
45.8
45.8
Female
271
54.2
54.2
100
Total
500
100
100
Figure 4.1: Gender respondents
Table 4.2 and figure 4.1 represents the gender of students who participated in this
study. The figure above is to enable the researcher to make demographic inferences
concerning the respondents. It clearly shows that there are 271 (54%) females, more
than 229 (46%) males who took part in the research. The gender of males and females
in this study seems like balanced, which will make it easy to obtain balanced results or
report. The gender results also shows that there are more female students registered
47
education than male, which may further be elaborated as the university is having more
female intake than male students.
4.3.2 Age of the respondents
It is always vital in a study to be able to know the age distribution of the participants. In
this type of research were which has technological implications, the researcher should
know whether respondents are old or young (Zindiye, 2008). The latter statement will
also try to clarify the notion that “older people are reluctant to use technology than the
younger ones”. Table 4.3 below shows the age categories of the respondents.
Table 4.3: Age
Age group
Frequency
Percentages
18 to 24 years
408
81.6
25 to 29 years
61
12.2
30 to 34 years
13
2.6
35 to 39 years
7
1.4
40 years and above
9
1.8
No response
2
0.4
From table 4.3 above it shows that most of the students who took part in the study are
those ranging from eighteen (18) to twenty-four (24) years of age with the total
percentage of 81.6, followed by 12.2% of those with years ranging from 25 to 29.
Students from the years 30 to 34 who participated are 13 in number (2.6%), followed by
7 (1.4%) students with age ranging from 35 to 39 , 9 (1.8%) students were 40 years
and above and only 2 (.4%) students did not respond.
4.3.3 Level of study
Figure 4.2 on the next page shows the students’ level of study during the time the study
was undertaken. The level of the study assisted the researcher to check the level of
students experience from level 2 to level 4 of their study.
48
Figure 4.2: Level of study
No response 2nd 3rd 4th
Frequency 2227 127 144
Percent 0.4 45.4 25.4 28.8
0
50
100
150
200
250
Number of students
The above figure shows that 227 (45.4%) students are in 2nd level of their study
followed by 144(28.8%) who are in level four of their studies (which is commonly
considered as postgraduate level). The final respondents are 127 (25.4%) students who
are in their 2nd level of study and followed only 2 (.4%) who did not respond.
4.3.4 Number of year(s) in the same level of study
Sometimes number of years in the same level matters, because this will determine the
years of experience or inability to work with blackboard-learn system. The number of
years in the same level, using the same system of learning will obviously show that the
system does not work for that particular student (it could be that the student is lacking
computer skills or having a bit of phobia to technology). Alternatively, some will perform
better in courses using blackboard-learn as medium of instruction and bad in those
courses that are still using a traditional way of teaching. Table 4.4 on the next page
represents the number of years students have been in same level of study.
49
Table 4.4: Year(s) in the same level
Frequency
Percent
No response
2
0.4
1 Year
451
90.2
2 Years
23
4.6
3 Years
7
1.4
4 Years
17
3.4
Total
500
100
4.3.5 Places where students access Blackboard-learn
University of Limpopo blackboard-learn is online based system and to access it, an
individual has to use personal computers, smart-phones, laptops with 3G connections
and any other smart gadget with internet connection. Figure 4.3 below shows that most
of our students (i.e. 29%) rely on the university‘s general computer laboratories to
access blackboard-learn, followed by 21% access from students residences, all
followed by Smart-phone, Library, Laptops with 3G connection and Internet café from
14% down to 11% in that logical order.
Figure 4.3: Blackboard-learn access points
13%
29%
21%
14%
12% 11%
Library Laboratories Residences
Smart phones Laptop-3G Internet Café
50
4.4 Section B:
4.4.1 Objective 1: To determine if blackboard-learn is a tool to enhance students’
academic performance.
4.4.1.1 How does blackboard-learn assist students in achieving their learning
objectives?
Table 4.5 below indicates the way blackboard–learn system helps students in
accomplishing their learning objectives; the report shows that 83 (16.6%) of students it
assist by providing them with online study material anywhere and anytime as long as
they are connected to internet anytime, the number of 7 (1.4%) students say it assist by
providing them with prompt feedback for revision after taking continuous assessments,
the number of 51 (10.2%) of students say it assist by providing them with online
announcement about the course, 16 (3.2%) of students say it assist in making it easier
for them to communicate and collaborate with both students and staff, the total number
of 333 (66.6%) of students say that the blackboard-learn system provide the assistance
with all what has already been said above in achieving their learning objectives, 7
(1.4%) students say the system is not assisting them with anything, whereas 3 (0.6)
students did not comment at all.
Table 4.5: Showing how blackboard-learn assist students in achieving their learning objectives
Frequency
Percent
Online study materials
83
16.6
Prompt feedback
7
1.4
Announcement
51
10.2
Communication and collaboration with staff
and students
16
3.2
All of the above
333
66.6
Not assist me with anything
7
1.4
No response
3
0.6
Total
500
100
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4.4.1.2 Blackboard-learn tools that students have used
From table 4.6 below, it is clear that most students are not aware or never used
blackboard-learn tools. The number of 332 (66.4%) students has not used any of the
blackboard tools listed below, 94 (18.8%) number of students used online assessment
tool to take tests, quizzes and examination, those students who used assignment,
discussion board and assessment tools constitute 8.6% and they are 43 in number, 26
(5.2%) students have used assignment tool, only one (1) or 0.2% has used discussion
board and 4 (0.4%) students did not respond.
Table 4.6: Illustrate Blackboard-learn tools that students have used
Frequency
Percent
Assignments
26
5.2
Discussions
1
0.2
Online assessments
94
18.8
All of the above
43
8.6
None of the above
332
66.4
No response
4
0.8
Total
500
100
4.4.1.3 Are you comfortable in taking blackboard learn assessment (Quizzes,
Tests and Examinations)?
Figure 4.4 on the next page, illustrate that 163 (34%) students are comfortable in taking
blackboard-learn assessment and general reasons being that: the system is easy to use
and convenient; they always receive feedback immediately after they have finished
taking an assessment, it also saves time for them and answers provided are not
rejected like in the case of punch-cards. The students also acknowledged that
blackboard assessment system equip them with a bit of computer skills, because they
are forced to learn how to type on the keyboard faster. One of the students said that:
“Blackboard assessment system helps me to master every detail about my course
contents, because every little mistake will cost me. He/ She went on and said: it
simplifies the work for our lecturer”
About 239 (49%) students are not comfortable in using the blackboard-learn
assessment system and their common reasons is that: the system gave them limited
time to complete their assessment and they start to panic when the clock starts to
52
count, that is; showing them time left. Most of the students have grammatical problems
and when they got the spelling wrong obviously the system mark them wrong, and they
feel is unfair to them unlike when their assessment is marked manually. The following
are the comments of some of the students:
“Black board learn is not simple for me because I have never use it, and I also don’t like
it because when one is manually marking my script instead of a computer, mercy can
be applied”.
“I am not very good with using the computer therefore I find it challenging most of the
time, because it marks exactly what's on the memorandum”.
“I cannot express myself while writing online”.
Lastly, 80 (17%) students did not respond to the question, this could be that they are not
interested in online assessment at all because some of the students completed the
questionnaire immediately after they finished taking their online test that day; which may
be that they have performed badly because they were not happy with the online
assessment.
Figure 4.4: Illustrate if students are comfortable in taking blackboard-learn assessment or not
No response
17%
Yes
34%
No
49%
53
4.4.1.4 Ranking of blackboard-learn tools in making learning easier for students
Figure 4.5 below illustrates that 278 (56%) students highly prefer blackboard-learn for
providing course content tool, followed by 98 (20%) and 52 (10%) who are just
moderate about the tool. In general, approximately 86% of the students are positive
about the importance of blackboard-learn learning tools in making learning easier for
them.
The rest remaining students rates the tool low (5%), and those who are rating the tool
lowest or poor are 20 in number, which is only 4%, whereas 20 (5%) did not respond.
This could be as a result of not being able to use computers proficiently.
Figure 4.5: Course content
54
Figure 4.6 below shows the level of students’ preference on assessment tool and 142
(28%) rated it the highest, 111 (22%) high, whereas about 83 (17%) are just moderate
about the tool.
Students who are rating the assessment tool low and lowest, constitute 15% plus 14%
consecutively, with the once who did not respond standing on 4%.
Figure 4.6: Assessment tool
The figure 4.7 on the next page illustrates the level of preference by students on the
discussion-board. The number of 103 (21%) students rate the discussion-board tool the
highest and equaling to those (108(21%) students) who rate the same tool the lowest.
The figure shows that the number of 70 (14%) students, still put the tool on high rate,
whereas 79 (16%) rate it low. The number of 111(22%) rate it on average on their level
of preference and only 29 (6%) did not respond to the question.
55
Figure 4.7: Discussion-board tool
Figure 4.8 on the next page, illustrates the level of rating from students as far as My
messages tool is preferred. The total of 230 (46%) students gave the tool the highest
rating, followed by 91 (18%) students who rated it high and 78 (16%) who gave the tool
moderate rating.
Of all the respondents, 7% which is exactly thirty-five (35) students gave the tool the
lowest rating and 48 (9%) students rated it low.
56
Figure 4.8: My messages tool
Figure 4.9 below illustrates the level of students’ preference on announcement tool in
making learning easier for them. The chart shows that more than half, which is 354
(71%) students gave the tool the highest rating, followed by 59 (12%) and 32 (6%), who
gave the tool the rating of high and moderate consecutively.
Exactly 24 (5%) and 11 (2%) allocated lowest and low consecutively and only 20
students, which is 4% of the participants did not respond.
Figure 4.9: Announcement tool
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4.4.1.5 Students indicating their satisfaction about blackboard, using the Likert
answering style.
Figure 4.10 indicates how students find blackboard-learn useful in enhancing their
knowledge and understanding gained from class lessons/ lectures. The total of 189
(37.8%) students strongly agree with the statement, whereas 196 (39.2%) just agree
and 72 (14.4%) are not sure.
About 16 (3.2%) students disagree with the statement and only 22 (4.4%) strongly
disagree. From the total sample, only 5 (1%) did not respond.
Figure 4.10: Usefulness of blackboard in enhancing students’ knowledge.
Figure 4.11 on the next page indicates the way students see high level of improvement
in their computer skills, since started using blackboard-learn system. The graph shows
that 54.4% (272) students strongly agree that there is an improvement in their computer
skills and 26.8% (134) indicated that they agree, whereas 9.6% (48) indicate that they
are not sure.
Of all the students, only 12 (2.4%) disagree, joined by 20 (4.0%) who strongly disagree.
The total of 5 (2.8%) students did not respond to the statement.
58
Figure 4.11: Improvement of computer literacy skills, due to blackboard-learn usage.
Figure 4.12 looks at the extent in which students will feel if all courses are taught
through blackboard-learn. The figure below shows that from 500 (100%) respondents;
only 66 (13.2%) students strongly agree that all courses should be taught through
blackboard-learn, 86 (17.2%) only agree whereas 111 (22.2%) students are not sure
about the statement.
It shows that most students 23.6% (118) disagree with the statement, followed by 96
(19.2%) students who strongly disagree with the fact that all courses should be taught
through blackboard and finally 28 (4.6%) students did not even respond to the
statement.
Figure 4.12: Feelings of students about all courses to be taught through blackboard-learn.
59
Figure 4.13 below looks at the feelings of students on the statement that says they
perform better in courses that are taught through blackboard. Of the students
151(30.2%) indicated that they are not sure about the statement, although 113 (22.6%)
indicated that they agree with the statement, whereas 50 (10%) students strongly agree
that they perform better when taught through blackboard-learn system.
Of all the students 109 (21.8%) disagree that with the statement, whereas 60 (12%)
strongly disagree with the statement that they perform better when taught through
blackboard-learn system and only 17 (3.4%) students did not respond to the statement.
Figure 4.13: The feelings of students on a statement that they perform better in courses that are taught
through blackboard-learn system
Figure 4.14 on the next page indicates how students feel about the statement that says;
students find it easy to use blackboard-learn assessment tool when taking tests,
examination or assignments. According to figure 4.14 below, 159 (31.8%) agree with
the statement, 141 (28.2%) strongly agree with the fact that it is easy to use blackboard
assessment tool when taking tests, examinations or assignments, whereas 86 (7.2%)
students are not sure about the statement.
53 (10.6%) of the students disagree with the statement, and 46 (9.2%) who strongly
disagree. Of all the students, only 15 (3.0%) did not respond to the statement.
60
Figure 4.14: Students find it easy to use blackboard-learn assessment tool in taking tests, examinations
or assignments.
61
4.5 Section C:
4.5.1 Objective 2: To determine factors that could hinder students from improving
their academic performance through blackboard-learn system.
4.5.1.1 How do students access blackboard-learn?
Table 4.7 below illustrates what students use to access blackboard-learn system. As
can be seen from the table, out of 500 students 394 (78.8) use the universitys computer
laboratories to access blackboard-learn, 10 (2%) use their laptops connected to the
university’s network and the same number of students are also using their laptops with
3Gs.
Only 4.6% (23) of students are using their mobile phones to access blackboard-learn,
whereas 10 (2%) again use laptops with 3Gs, mobile phones, university’s computer
laboratories and laptops with university‘s wireless connection. 2 (0.4%) students do not
have access to anything, whereas 51 (10.2%) did not respond.
Table 4.7: What students use to access blackboard-learn system
Frequency
Percent
Laptop with university wireless network
10
2
University computer laboratories
394
78.8
My mobile phone
23
4.6
My laptop with 3G
10
2
All of the above
10
2
None of the above
2
0.4
No response
51
10.2
Total
500
100
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4.5.1.2 The question addresses whether students used or are aware of other
learning management systems in their studies or not.
Table 4.8 below indicates that of 500 students, 423 (84.6%) have never used any
learning management system besides blackboard, 23 (4.6%) have used or aware of
WebCt, 20 (4.0%) used or aware of Pearson eCollege, 6 (1.2%) are exposed to Sakai
and 2 (0.4%) are aware of Moodle.
Only 18 (3.6%) were exposed to all of learning management systems, whereas 8 (1.6%)
did not respond.
Table 4.8: Types of learning management systems, students are exposed to.
Frequency
Percent
Sakai
6
1.2
Moodle
2
0.4
WebCt
23
4.6
Pearson eCollege
20
4
All of the above
18
3.6
None of the above
423
84.6
No response
8
1.6
Total
500
100
4.5.1.3 Students are asked if they are satisfied with the way blackboard-learn is
available to them.
As can be seen from table 4.9 on the next page, of the 500 students who participated in
this study, 225 (45%) are satisfied with the way blackboard-learn system is available to
them. They also mentioned that there are computer laboratories available for access
and the system can be accessed anywhere and anytime as long as the server and
network are healthy. They also show their satisfaction because the system is also
mobile compatible, meaning; they can access it from their mobile phones and they can
login to their webpages as long as they are connected to internet. Some of students
comments are as follows:
“I find the blackboard-learn easier and available when I am inside the campus, but I
struggle when I am outside”
63
“It is not at all the times that the system is available due to university‘s network
problems, but so far I am content with how it is available.”
“I am satisfied with blackboard‘s availability, because it is always available when you
want to use it and its free, you don’t have to pay.”
The number of 142 (28.4%) say, they are not satisfied with the way blackboard-learn
system is available to them, because the system is not accessible in their residences
and sometimes the network becomes down. They also gave the reasons that there are
limited computers, therefore it is not easy to secure one for blackboard-learn access
and also that the blackboard-learn is not accessible on their smart phones (it is always
blocked/ made not available) and occasionally blackboard server becomes down for
days and have denied access.
Some students gave the following comments:
“I have a laptop and it is configured for wireless network, but the network is very weak in
my room; even if the laptop is connected, you find that the blackboard-learn is blocked
in the residences”.
Blackboard-learn is boring and consuming time, some of us who stay outside the
campus, we do not have time to check it every day. Sometimes the network becomes