Technologies in Teaching and Learning – Term Paper

According to Bradwell (2009), universities need to redefine their missions and restate their goals in response to technological advances in the society. This is centrally geared to tending to more varied and advanced needs of the students who are considered as “digital natives”. As a result, faculty members can help students by engaging in effective teaching and learning experiences through use of wide range of technologies in their teaching and learning. Faculties, according to Bradwell (2009, p. 19), have to “deal with a much greater range of information processing styles, cultural backgrounds, and styles of learning. As a result, the ideal for teaching in higher education is now recognized to involve much more that lectures as the means of information provision.”

Research on CMS tools reports that different institutions have invested a large amount of money to improve technology integration programs within higher education. However, these efforts have created opportunities as well as challenges for universities and colleges in availing appropriate services to help faculty in designing and implement different CMS features to supplement traditional instructions (Murdock, 2006; West et al. 2007).Despite the adoption of CMSs to develop e-learning materials and activities in traditional higher education institutions, faculty members are still reluctant to adapt to these changes in their face-to-face instruction. Maguire (2006) states that many faculty members express scepticism about integrating different features of a CMS in their instruction. 

The research on CMS usage in traditional context focuses on examining students and faculty’ perceptions on the use of different CMS features. Several studies that form the background for this study investigate how faculty use and perceive CMS in their traditional teaching. The studies below are of relevance to the current study and the findings confirmed how CMSs were used as well as faculty perceptions towards factors that enhance or limit CMS integration.   

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One of the main studies that is often cited in the literature and forms the foundation for several other studies is by Morgan (2003). Morgan (2003) conducted a study at Wisconsin University to examine how faculty members use a CMS in their traditional instruction. Three methods were used for data collection. Interviews were done involving 140 faculty members and staff. Surveys were also distributed online to 740 faculty and instructional staff. The study also examined six CMS user logs. The research established that there was an increase in the use of CMS tools, but much of the use was related to the administrative and managerial feature of the CMSs. It further revealed that faculties adopt CMSs to manage mundane administrative tasks, especially with teaching large classes. The CMSs were also used to enhance instructor-learner communication with students by expanding access to class documents for transparency of the online gradebook. These findings were similar to other studies (King, 2001; Saunders & Kelmming, 2003). Other factors that promote the use of different CMS features are related to peer’s recommendations and pressure from university administrators. Another motivating factor cited by Morgan (2003) was students’ demands or pressures to integrate technology in their learning. The study also indicated that limited use of different CMS tools could be linked to workload, inflexibility and over-rigidness of the CMSs. Interestingly, Morgan (2003) argues that the participants in the study reported that they use a CMS solely for pedagogical purposes. Morgan explains that there is a “paradox” given the fact that faculty members are assumed to mainly use the CMS for managerial purposes.  However, in the process of using the CMSs, faculty members may begin to rethink and restructure the courses which may bring about “accidental pedagogy”. 

Similarly, another study that recurs frequently in the literature is by Wood’s et al. (2004). The researchers used a quantitative method through survey to examine the responses of 862 faculty members at 38 institutions and colleges that use Blackboard (CMS) to supplement their face-to-face teaching. The main research questions addressed how faculty use different CMS tools, their perceptions, different implications of CMS tools in students’ learning, and the impact of the CMS use on the psychological atmosphere within face-to-face classroom setting. The study also investigated the factors that might enhance or limit the use of technology in a classroom setting. The results indicated confirmed Morgan’s study as well as other research that faculty members mostly use a CMS for administrative purposes such as posting course syllabi, content, emails and announcements. The study also concluded that few faculty members used Blackboard for instructional and assessment purposes and even fewer faculty members used the interactive features of the CMS to build a sense of community in the classroom setting. The study revealed that faculty members had positive attitude towards the administrative features of the CMS whereas neutral or undecided in terms of the other interactive or assessment features. It was also revealed that one of the main determinates for CMS usage was experience and level of comfort. The researchers noted that faculty members mainly use a CMS tool for administrative purposes and do not appear to be fully using the utilizing other interactive features from a pedagogical perspective. The scholars recommended that further research is needed to explore how a CMS can be used to enhance teaching and learning in traditional settings from the student and faculty perspectives. 

Likewise, David et al. (2013) conducted a study at the University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates involving five colleges and the library to gain better understanding of how a CMS (iLearn) is being used at the university and to recognize faculty perceptions of the CMS. Morgan’s study (2003) was used as a foundation for the study and build on other related work with awareness of the technological innovations that have followed since the Morgan’s study. The study aimed to answer four research questions related to how and why faculty use iLearn at the university, the derivers and barriers that affect the use of technology, and finally what examples of best practice can be identified by faculty. The study used three methods for data collection: survey, interviews, and focus groups. A survey was distributed through the CMS and used the anonymity functions offered by the CMS to 394 faculty and instructor and 98 responses were received. Sixteen faculty members were interviewed to seek confirmation of the survey findings that emerged from survey data analysis and to expand on issues of interest to the interviewees and to allow for more information to emerge. In addition, three focus groups were interviewed from three colleges on voluntary basis. The aim of the focus group is to gain better insights stimulated by group interaction. The finding of the study confirmed the findings in previous studies elsewhere (Morgan, 2003; Blin & Munro, 2008; Hamuy & Galaz, 2010). This was expected because of the commonalities in the contexts and data collection and analysis tools. The study revealed that there was a strong emphasis on the use of the CMS administrative tools and far less usage of the interactive tools such as blogs, wikis, and discussion boards. The study revealed that such imbalance was not surprising. Furthermore, faculty members during the interviews revealed a positive attitude towards technology integration and suggested that training out to be “department-focused”.  It was suggested that faculty members in different colleges at the university need to understand how to use it appropriately to meet different course structures. The results of the above mentioned studies relate to the observations made by Wingard (2004) and Palmer & Holt (2009). The two note that pragmatic factors tend to influence how faculty members use CMS tools in their teaching as “mechanism for efficient and accessible delivery of teaching and learning materials to students” (Palmer & Holt, 2009, p. 379). Additionally, faculty satisfaction and increased familiarity may foster the growth in the range of uses and applications of a CMS.