E-learning and the higher education systems
The introduction of e-learning has not been embraced to the same degree at different levels of education systems. The tertiary education is more advanced in using ICT tools in educa- tion as compared to other systems. Traditional universities and other higher learning insti- tutions are equipping themselves with e-learning systems to provide a common digital learning platform for course delivery and management (Laurillard, 2006). Some others add the feature of virtual space storage for keeping effective communication and capability to share educational resources amongst the academic community (McBrien, Cheng, Jones, 2009; Koskela, Kiltti, Vilpola & Tervonen, 2005).
Today, the plans, policies and programs of higher learning institutions have recognized e- learning as a prospective way to transform knowledge and skills and increase performance and quality of education (Henry, 2001). From a university managerial point of view e- learning provides an opportunity for educational business development and quality im- provement in learning and teaching activities. However, the implementation and use of e- learning systems are still not very well spread in some parts of the world (Ssekakubo, 2011; Njenga & Fourie, 2010; Andersson, 2008; Sife et al., 2007). The reason for this issue is be- cause e-learning is a complex system that involves holistic consideration of individual, or- ganizational and infrastructure changes (Jochems, Kope & Van Merrienboer, 2004; De Freitas, & Oliver, 2005).
Noteworthy, the developing world in general has experienced success from the introduc- tion and expansion of existing e-learning tools (Dublin, 2003). Some uptakes are observa- ble and several remarkable transformations in some tertiary education systems regarding education delivery and the related support process are quite obvious.
However, for other universities, the level of technological infrastructure has not allowed the optimum uptake of new innovative e-learning platforms. In addition, other reasons have led to failure in integrating new learning technologies. Among them, the lack of trained university academic staff in the use of technology and collaboration in virtual learn- ing environment, teachers’ attitudes and lack of intentions to use technology, learner’s low skills in basic ICT skills, learners’ expectations and attitudes to use e-learning and the lack of strategic plans and policies for e-learning implementation are mostly expressed (Nachmias et al., 2004; Persico, Manca & Pozzi, 2014).
For some countries, the basic ICT infrastructure and human capacities are still scarce and those are grave constraints that lead to failure in some e-learning projects. Alongside those constraints, some universities are lacking practical guidelines and policies to facilitate the development of effective pedagogical e-learning environments.
As far as e-learning is also concerned with research and the overall management of educa- tional activities, the integration of e-learning in higher education systems has brought sev- eral types of capabilities to support pedagogical and management of educational activities (Madhav et al. 2010):
Internet access to search, and transactional services Interactive diagnostic or adaptive tutorials Interactive educational games
Remote control access to local physical devices Personalized information and guidance for learning support Simulations or models of scientific systems Communications tools for collaboration with other students and teachers Tools for creativity and design Virtual reality environments for development and manipulation Data analysis, modeling or organization tools and applications Electronic devices to assist disabled learners Internet access to digital versions of materials unavailable locally
According to Salmon (2005), all these capabilities of e-learning are achieved by universities in two transitional stages. The first stage is thought to move to electronic classrooms where physical learning environments are replaced by new ways of learning and teaching, but only to some extents. This means that in some higher education systems, some processes of teaching and the primary assumptions about learning and knowledge sharing remain unaf- fected. This is argued to have delayed the adoption and use of virtual learning environ- ments (VLE) in some universities. The second stage implies that learning technologies are used in an innovative way to upgrade to a classroom integrated fully with e-learning in an effective way to meet intended university objectives, learners needs and instructors’ goals.
E-learning in developing countries
As mentioned earlier, the uptake of innovative technologies is not on the same level worldwide. In the higher education sector, there are a number of commercial e-learning system tools such as WebCt and Blackboard while others are based on open sources com- monly known as learning management systems (LMS) such as Moodle, Sakai and Atutor, among others (Ssekakubo, 2011). The use of open source tools is an important considera- tion, particularly in higher education in developing countries. The reason for this is that customizable LMS with less cost and without a license fee are needed in this context. In this situation, the quality of learning, using these open source tools, remains also problem- atic in some institutions (Laurillard, 2006; Mott, 2010). Due to the inadequate customiza- tion of these tools and lack guidance, teachers and learners fail to use effectively these learning management systems (Mumtaz, 2000).
Regarding different initiatives of e-learning in developing countries, this innovation is still at its infancy stage as compared to in developed countries (Grönlund & Islam, 2010). With an interest to integrate e-learning in traditional methods of teaching, developing countries’ education systems try to borrow best practices. But this has not succeeded in some coun- tries because the need to customize the borrowed systems to the local contexts is still chal- lenging (Nawaz, Awan & Ahmad, 2011; Sife et al., 2007).
1.1 Problem area
1.3 Research question
2.1 Research Strategy
2.2 Research Design
2.3 Research Method
2.4 Data collection
2.5 Data analysis procedure
2.6 Research credibility
2.8 Research ethical issues
3 Theoretical Framework
3.1 E-learning systems
3.2 Learning Management Systems
3.3 Technology acceptance in education
4 Case study description
4.1 University of Rwanda and the thesis supervision process
4.2 Overview of the SciPro System
4.3 SciPro System, a Rwandan version for pilot integration
5 Empirical findings, analysis and discussio
5.1 Research model and hypotheses development
5.1.1 Hypothesis development
5.2 Data analysis
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E-learning management system for thesis process support from a supervisor perspective