So I have just finished my first year at University and my final assignment has just been handed up.
I though I'd share it with you:
How does computer self-efficacy effect the success and failure of students using E-learning systems in tertiary education?
Article by S, Mawson
‘E-learning uses network technologies to create, foster, deliver, and facilitate learning anytime, anywhere’ (Liaw, 2007). Because of this, E-learning is becoming the fastest growing method of teaching. E-learning is being implemented in almost every learning platform; this includes primary and secondary education, jobs and careers training for new employees. Even entire university courses can be completed online in open universities. For this reason it is important to discuss the factors that influence an individual’s performance level, and what can be done to increase the success of E-learning systems (ELS). This article will look at how computer self-efficacy (CSE) effects the success and failure of students using ELS in tertiary education, and what aspects of the current systems encourage or hinder success. This article will also discuss the strengths and weaknesses of learning in an online environment; how CSE plays a role in the use of technology and quality of learning; and what needs to be improved, not just in the ELS’s themselves, but also in the students’ information computer technology (ICT) backgrounds. It is the intent of this article to outline the importance of a strong and well-designed foundation for all ELS programs to encourage success and increase the CSE of learners.
There are advantages and disadvantages to E-learning. The main advantages cited are that E-learning can be accessed anywhere, at any time, with asynchronous interaction, allowing greater possibilities for collaboration. In addition, new approaches to education are being developed, with a greater emphasis on the integration of computer-based learning (Capper, 2001).
In the modern world being able to access tertiary education at the click of a button is an incredibly valuable resource. The at-your-own-pace in-your-own-time approach is attractive to a number of different would be student cohorts. A range of students will value the E-learning approach, for example: students with an ICT background, and students who do not benefit from the social aspect of the classroom, rural students, students whose preferred course is not offered in their state, full-time working/mature aged students, and students responsible for family or other commitments. Leidner & Jarvenpaa (1995) suggest that students learn better when they control the speed at which they learn, and discover information on their own. If this is the case then why do studies such as Dutton & Perry (2002) state substantially larger dropout rates among E-learning students than face-to-face students? According to Marcus & Bouhnik (2006) this suggests something is not working properly in e-learning systems.
Students that struggle to maintain self-discipline or experience difficulties with time management, meeting deadlines, and struggle to maintain motivation, may find self-regulated learning a challenge (Convingtone, K 2012). In a survey constructed by Marcus (2003) students using distance E-learning were asked to identify what aspects of the ELS they found dissatisfying. Reasons listed include: lack of framework, lack of supervision, absence of a “learning environment”, lack of student-to-student interaction, and limitations due to communication over the internet. E-learning also requires students to dedicate more time to learning the subject matter.
Marcus & Bouhnik (2006) referenced many other studies that they believe produced consistent results with Marcus’s (2003) survey. It is clear from this study that there are areas that require improvement. Many researchers have attempted to study the student characteristics and circumstances that may result in lower satisfaction with ELS. Swan (2001) considers the lack of self-motivation and the inability to structure one’s own learning; Roblyer (1999) discusses an absence of previous experience with distance learning as a factor; Saadé & Kira (2009) also suggest perceived ease of use (PEU), technology anxiety, and CSE. A discussion encompassing this body of literature is beyond the scope of this article but should be taken into account when determining whether a student is suitable for and E-learning environment, and also in the designing and implementation of ELS.
The concept of self-efficacy incorporates the “beliefs in one’s capabilities to mobilize the motivation, cognitive resources and courses of action needed to meet situational demands” (Bandura & Cervone, 1986). Self-efficacy is an easier concept for researchers to measure than confidence, and has more academic influence. For this reason, when we look at how an ELS effects students’ success, CSE is the main factor focused on. For the purposes of this research we will be looking at how self-efficacy, anxiety and PEU all play a part in the success of ELS users.
A quantitative study by Saadé & Kira (2008) investigates the role of CSE in mediating computer anxiety (C-ANX) on PEU. Put simply, this study concluded that C-ANX has a direct relationship to PEU and that CSE mediates this relationship. Increasing CSE can lower C-ANX and thus increase the PEU. According to Saadé & Kira (2008), having a higher PEU will make using an ELS more beneficial.
“The easier a system is to use, the less effort required to carry out a given task” (Davis, Bagozzi & Warshaw, 1992, p. 1115). If a student perceives the ELS as easy to use, then the student can spend more time learning the content rather than learning how the ELS works. Sun et al (2006) suggests that PEU has a direct effect on the attrition of students from ELS. The notion is endorsed by Dajani (2014), who agrees that struggling to learn the ELS has a large impact on dropout rates according, thus, it makes sense to create an ELS that is as simple, intuitive and user-friendly as possible.
While some researchers, such as Dajani (2014), have looked how the characteristics of the individual effect their success when using an ELS, Chien (2011) suggests that the effectiveness of an ELS is largely influenced by factors within the system. Selim (2007) claim that the trustworthiness and the smoothness of the infrastructure is important and needs to be concentrated on when creating ELS. Pituch and Lee (2006) also suggests that the three factors influencing the effectiveness of using ELS are (1) Functionality; how easy is the system to use? How intuitive is it? How stable is it? (2) Interaction; how does it respond as a graphical user interface (GUI)? How does the system evaluate or allow content to be evaluated? (3) Response; how does the system respond to the user? Is the feedback supportive or constructive? The results of Pituch and Lee (2006) show that these factors have an influence on both the usage and confidence in using ELS. Finally Chen & Hsu (2007) also suggest that if the ELS has a high quality interface design and technology, that this will have a positive influence of learners’ PEU. It is obvious that looking at the design of the ELS is paramount, but what else can be done to increase PEU and CSE?
Another approach to increasing CSE would be in the design of the ELS. Dominguez et al (2012) suggests a “gamified” approach to the design of the ELS. “Video games are interactive activities that continually provide challenges and goals to the player, thus involving them in an active learning process to master the game mechanics” (Koster, 2005). If this motivation can be harnessed in an educational environment, the impact would be highly beneficial. Video games can be addictive, articles such as Antonius et al (2009) highlight how computer games are designed to encourage the player to keep playing through localised goal-setting and reward. The concept is that “gamifying” ELSs will give the student a way of measuring experience, and rewarding them for achieving short-term goals. This has been shown to increase CSE as well as academic self-efficacy in general. The results of Dominguez et al (2012) suggest that there are no measurable differences in the academic outcomes for students using the gamified learning system. However, students’ attitudes towards learning were more positive compared to the control group. There is evidence that a gamified approach can benefit academic outcomes, although more research needs to be done to make this approach more achievable.
Some researchers suggest that ELSs need to be integrated into primary and secondary level education in order to familiarise students with this environment early on (Liaw, 2008; Dajani, 2014). When discussing first impression of a GUI, Saadé and Otrakji (2004) state that a person’s initial impression plays an important role is their intention to adopt the technology. This would suggest that a focus on increasing ELS familiarity in younger students, and fostering a positive ICT background, would increase CSE and lower the C-ANX levels in students Saadé & Kira (2008). With this in mind it is important to make sure that there is a positive first impression to an ELS in the early stages of education. This would hopefully instil a high level of CSE in the students at an early age. Sun et al (2006) also suggests that is may be helpful to include a basic computer literacy course into every students’ first year of college or university. Students have reported that this approach is beneficial in countries where they have been implemented, such as in America and Taiwan.
A study conducted by Chien (2011) on the use of ELS in the workplace to retrain employees, has put a strong emphasis on the instructor. It was said that “the instructor’s attitude, technical skill, and instructional method can enhance employee training effectiveness” (Chien, 2011). In short, a highly enthusiastic, friendly instructor with a high level of ICT knowledge, and a patient approach, can reduce C-ANX, improve PEU, and increase the effectiveness of the ELS course. Chien goes on to corroborate these findings with the conclusions of other research, such as Volery and Lord (2000), and Webster and Hackley (1997), however a discussion of these results and their implications are beyond the scope of this article.
The findings of this research conclude that positive PEU, low C-ANX, and high CSE are factors that strongly effect the success of students using ELS in tertiary education. A number of factors have been found to mediate these results. Prior computer knowledge and a positive introduction to ELS at an early age have been shown to increase the PEU and CSE, and lower the C-ANX of the user. Increasing PEU can in fact lower the C-ANX thus increasing the CSE of the user. It is also vital that the ELS is well-designed, easy to use, and has a strong focus on smooth performance. Regulated constructive feedback can also increase the PEU and CSE. An interactive instructor with a high ICT knowledge and an enthusiasm to teach the content of the ELS is just as important as the ELS itself. It is also extremely important that the student is able to maintain self-discipline, structure his or her own learning, and has good time management skills, however it could be argued that these traits are necessary for success in any tertiary education environment.
This article suggests that it is important that instructors of ELS implement a firm study framework. ELS’s could also potentially be used in conjunction with a normal classroom setting, this would allow for students to benefit from the advantages of both systems simultaneously. If this is not feasible (for example with long distance learning) there should be a strong focus on the selecting of an instructor that is enthusiastic in the subject area, has a high level of ICT knowledge, and is easily accessible to the student (i.e. quick response times to online messaging or emails). Furthermore students considering entering an E-learning course should reflect upon their own ICT background and what they can do to improve on their ICT knowledge, this will improve the PEU of the ELS. Finally, an extremely strong focus should be on the development of the ELS itself. Traits that a software development team should consider when creating a well-designed ELS, are: a focus on organisation, performance, and quality software that can be easily adapted to suit the individual course, and hands out reliable constructive feedback to the student. Finally, with the expansion of E-learning and the use of ELS in higher education it is important to educate the younger generation and prepare them for what is becoming an E-based world. A positive first impression is of the upmost importance.
‘We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world.’ – David Warlick (2009)
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