Title page for ETD etd-11102006-174358

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Thomas, Karen
Email thomask.ekw@mail.uovs.ac.za
URN etd-11102006-174358
Document Title Learner perspectives on the use of a learning management system in first-year Economics
Degree PhD (Curriculum Studies)
Department Curriculum Studies
Advisor Name Title
Prof J Cronje
  • online assessment
  • discussions
  • blended learning
  • LMS
  • elearning
  • active learning
  • eonomics
  • higher education
  • effective teaching and learning
  • Interaction
  • cooperative and collaborative learning
  • large classes
Date 2006-09-07
Availability unrestricted
Tertiary institutions in South Africa are currently faced with several challenges: Student numbers are increasing, funding is not necessarily sufficient and the type of student who enters Higher Education is part of a generation which grew up with technology (Prensky, 2001). Expectations are that tertiary education institutions need to keep up with the changing environment, whilst still maintaining high standards.

Interaction within the learning environment is essential, both from an academic, as well as a social point of view. Students who leave the institution need to be able to function in a working environment, with all the challenges that accompany it, as well as be academically qualified for their careers. Universities, and specifically Economics departments, are often accused of being ivory towers with no regard for the real world (Fullbrook, 2003).

The design for this study is a case-study within a qualitative research design. The study focuses on the use of an LMS to aid the learning process in a blended learning environment at the department of Economics, at the University of the Free State. In this study, several tools were used to support students and add another dimension to learning economics. Data-collection instruments include a literature review, focus group meetings, semi-structured questionnaires and observations.

The value of this study is that it forms a basis for lecturers in other disciplines to include aspects of blended learning in their courses. The findings of the research include the usability of the different LMS tools, students’ experiences of these tools and the effect that these tools have on their understanding and integration of economics. The rationale of this study is based on the fact that students who attend university come from a generation identified as Digital Natives (Prensy, 2001) and have certain methods of data integration. The purpose of this study is, therefore, to focus and analyse students’ experiences of using WebCT tools as an additional aid to the course. The target group for the study was the Economics firstyear, second semester, English medium of instruction students. The course runs over a full semester, with two traditional facetoface classes, as well as tutor groups. In addition to two semester tests and an examination, students had to participate in a biweekly discussion forum, based on economic events and four online, multiple choice quizzes. They also had access to class notes, additional readings, informal discussions and a forum for questions. This research makes use of a qualitative approach and a casestudy, because it studies a “…human activity embedded in the real world which can only be studied or understood in context … which exists in the here and now that merges in with its context so that precise boundaries are difficult to draw” Gillham (2000). This study falls within the Interpretivist paradigm (Burrel and Morgan). Data were collected by means of focus group meetings, informal discussions, openended questionnaires, observations and a course evaluation. In this way, students’ attitudes towards the LMS could be gauged. Three categories were identified during the data analysis and coding process. The first category relates to interaction between students and lecturers (or tutors), the second to peerinteraction and the last category refers to contentstudent interaction. The findings of this study concludes that students need interaction with lecturers, peers and content in order to make sense of what they are learning, to link the theory with realworld issues and to enhance generic skills. Lecturers should consider making use of a hybrid learning system, but must consider their specific course content before deciding which of the available tools to use.

  Filename       Size       Approximate Download Time (Hours:Minutes:Seconds) 
 28.8 Modem   56K Modem   ISDN (64 Kb)   ISDN (128 Kb)   Higher-speed Access 
  00front.pdf 163.02 Kb 00:00:45 00:00:23 00:00:20 00:00:10 < 00:00:01
  01chapter1.pdf 280.62 Kb 00:01:17 00:00:40 00:00:35 00:00:17 00:00:01
  02chapter2.pdf 696.11 Kb 00:03:13 00:01:39 00:01:27 00:00:43 00:00:03
  03chapter3.pdf 435.51 Kb 00:02:00 00:01:02 00:00:54 00:00:27 00:00:02
  04chapter4.pdf 795.95 Kb 00:03:41 00:01:53 00:01:39 00:00:49 00:00:04
  05chapter5.pdf 398.28 Kb 00:01:50 00:00:56 00:00:49 00:00:24 00:00:02
  06back.pdf 337.80 Kb 00:01:33 00:00:48 00:00:42 00:00:21 00:00:01

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