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Examining learners’ perspective in Malaysian

Examining learners’ perspective in Malaysian

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Examining learners’ perspective in Malaysian
Examining learners’ perspective in Malaysian

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The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at www.emeraldinsight.

com/1065-0741.htm

CWIS 26,1

Instructional design and e-learning
Examining learners’ perspective in Malaysian institutions of higher learning
Husnayati Hussin
International Islamic University Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

4

Fatimah Bunyarit
University Petronas, Ipoh, Malaysia, and

Ramlah Hussein
International Islamic University Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Abstract
Purpose – This study aims to investigate the elements of effective instructional design in an e-learning environment in selected Malaysian higher learning institutions. In addition, the study also seeks to investigate the e-learning use behaviour among these e-learners. Design/methodology/approach – The study used the interview method of data collection to examine the e-learning systems used at the selected institutions and a questionnaire-based survey to gather responses from students on their perception of the effectiveness of instructional design elements and their e-learning use behaviour. Findings – Findings of the study indicate positive perceptions of e-learning among students in the selected universities. Student involvement and course content are among the most satisfactory factors for instructional design principles as perceived by the students. Research limitations/implications – Limitations of the study relate to the generalisability of the findings to other user groups. The findings of the study provide insights on the relevance of instructional design elements to an effective e-learning environment. Practical implications – The findings should assist instructors and e-learning implementers in designing course materials that would be more effective for e-learning at the tertiary level of education. Originality/value – The research provides some evidence from an e-learners’ perspective on the effectiveness of instructional design for an e-learning environment in the Malaysian context. Keywords E-learning, Curriculum development, Tertiary education Paper type Research paper

Campus-Wide Information Systems Vol. 26 No. 1, 2009 pp. 4-19 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 1065-0741 DOI 10.1108/10650740910921537

Introduction The availability of interactive technology has enabled e-learning to move from textbook or classroom metaphor to more experimental learning models. According to Chandra (2002), such tools provide educators an opportunity to build into the course interactive experiential exercises that allow the instructor to obtain a highly accurate image of the students’ levels of understanding. McLoughlin (1999) states that in open and flexible learning context, instructional materials have the capacity to cater for individual needs while enabling collaborative forms of learning. At the outset, when designing materials for a given group of learners, instructional designers typically carry out a needs analysis or profile of learners in order

to ascertain the prior knowledge, motives, background interests, attitude and experience of learners. Instructional practice and information gained from such a needs analysis enable the design of learning resources to be tailored closely to the needs of the learners. Instructional designers customarily acknowledge individual differences in their designs and plan to adopt instruction to the needs of individual learners. The present study aims to identify effective instructional design principles, that is, the factors or elements of instructional design of e-learning systems that help the students to intellectually engage with and develop a critical perspective on the material available to them and could be used to enhance their learning. Thus, the study aims to achieve the following objectives: . to investigate the elements of an effective instructional design in e-learning study environment in selected Malaysian higher learning institutions; and . to investigate the e-learning use behaviour in these selected institutions. Research background The use of the term e-learning is more rapidly changing than the content and approaches to e-learning. Before the term “e-learning” became a household word, such terms like open distance learning, web based training (WBT), computer based training (CBT), technology based learning and online learning, were used. Today, e-learning may be defined as the delivery of formal and informal learning and training activities, processes, communities and events via the use of all electronic media like internet, intranet, extranet, CD-ROM, video tape, DVD, TV, cell phones, personal organizers, etc. The terms distance education and distance learning are often used interchangeably. The definitions for distance learning vary from a term used to describe a more student-centred approach to distance education to a synonym for distance education. Distance education is an instruction that takes place in different locations; that is, the professor and students are separated by distance and time, and communicate via media. In distance education courses, the instruction is prepared and packed days, weeks, months, or a year before the act of learning by the student. This time difference creates an environment quite distinct from the typical face-to-face instruction of the college classroom where the teaching and learning take place in the same time frame and with the professor and student in the same room. Khan (2003) stated that an e-learning system is meaningful to learners when it is easily accessible, well designed, learners-centre, affordable, efficient, flexible and has facilitated learning environment. When learners display a high level of participating and success in meeting a course’s goals and objectives, this can make e-learning meaningful to instructors. In turn, when learners enjoy all available support provided in course without any interruption, it makes support service staff happy as they strive to provide easy-to-use, reliable services. Finally, e-learning system is meaningful to institutions when it has a sound return-on-investment, a moderate to high level learner’s satisfaction with both the quality of instruction and al support services, and a low drop-out-rate. Brown (1997) described the pedagogical for the online course in Murdoch University. The economics lecturer could see the enormous potential of the worldwide web as an extremely rich information source. By using hypertext and learner activity for the online course “Economic thought and controversy,” he deliberately seeks to give learners more self-directed access to that rich information base.

Instructional design and e-learning 5

CWIS 26,1

6

E-learning in Malaysia E-learning was introduced at Universiti Tun Abdul Razak (UNITAR) in September 1998. At that time, there were only 162 students registered for the two undergraduate degree programmes namely Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) and Bachelor of Information Technology (BIT) (Jaiballan and Asirvatham, 2003). According to a survey conducted by the Multimedia University in October 2003, 65 per cent of educational institutions in Malaysia provide online or e-learning solution. In these 65 per cent of institutions, only 16 per cent is exploring the e-learning while 63 per cent of institutions are already implementing e-learning. Only 19 per cent of these institutions are highly involved in this effort while 2 per cent are very advanced in e-learning. The survey also indicates that the top reason for e-learning implementation in these institution in flexibility. The growth rate of e-learning in Malaysia is estimated to surpass 16 per cent by year 2005. Another well-established virtual university in the country is the Open University Malaysia (OUM). Since its establishment in 2000, OUM has attracted more than 60,000 students. About 90 per cent of OUM students are working adults. OUM is using a blended e-learning approach in its program, where students meet their facilitators once in two weeks (Puteh and Hussin, 2007). With the advancement of internet usage and broadband facility in the country has created and open up more opportunities and positive development of e-learning in the country. Instructional design elements Siragusa (2000) mentions that various authors have identified components of instructional design they consider to be important to online learning. The authors recommended that further research is needed to determine which aspects of each type of instructional strategy affects learning in emerging technology-based instruction. Instructional designers are constantly seeking effective instructional elements and are examining what features of the internet can be best utilized for online learning. Based on the past studies, the following are elements of instructional design commonly discussed. Content Content includes all the conceivable materials that the students may need and in alternative forms. The fundamental characteristics of web-based instructional systems are their non-sequential arrangement of information content, and their facility for allowing the linking of information, which is conceptually related (Graff, 2003). Therefore, it is conceivable that such a system provide the potential for presenting instructional information more effectively than traditional linear methods of delivery, because the interrelationships between units of information can be explicitly illustrated within the web structure. Focusing on the navigating through the web will leave the user fewer mental resources with which to process the instructional material. Alternatively, focusing more on the instructional material, and less on navigating may ultimately causes the user to experience a feeling of disorientation. The more the disorientation the user experiences the more she or he will need to attend to navigating and less processing the content, thus reducing the amount of learning that take place. The learning paradigm of today is described as “information transfer” (Moore et al., 2001), in which students simply receive the facts and information that their teachers wish to impart to them. Online instructional design needs to address more directly into

to two areas, the degree to which the content is relevant and purposeful, and the ability the learner has to control their access to that information. It is not that a classroom experience should not be applicable, but because of the dependent nature of the environment, students tend to sit through classes and allow the instructor to dictate the pace and relevance. Students in class may know the general purpose of the content, as well as the length of the training event, but most of the learner control stops there. Because of the nature of the classroom, learners accept these conditions, and in extreme cases, tolerate them. Interaction Chou (2003) defined interactivity as a fundamental aspect of traditional face-to-face teaching. Interactivity is a central concern in the design of such mediated instructional setting as computer-assisted instruction (CAI), computer-assisted learning, internet-based learning and web-based learning. Oliver et al. (1997) suggested that the term interactivity describes the form of communication that a medium supports enabling dialogue between the learner and the instructor and is an important attribute of technology-supported educational environments. Online tools such as e-mail, bulletin board, chat and desktop conferencing have provided the educator with a variety of ways of communicating with their students, and for students to communicate with each other. All those working with online instruction will agree that interaction is an important aspect to online learning. Interactivity results in a learner centred instruction where the student’s experience is like having a person interaction with the instructor. Increased interaction improves students’ achievement and attitudes towards learning. Ragan (1999) mentioned that interactions between instructor and students and amongst students form the basis for a community of learners. Strategies and techniques for fostering a learning community should be incorporated into the instructional design. An effective learning environment, including one involving technology, includes meaningful interactions among students, the instructional materials, and the instructor. Social interactions enrich the learning community and should be supported by the instructional design. Electronic communication technologies should be viewed only as a tool for creating and maintaining the learning community. Creative solutions should be used to fulfil the objectives traditionally met through residency requirements (interactions, socialization, advising). Finally, opportunities for students to build confidence and comfort with distance education and its supporting technologies should be provided. Feedback Feedback is the most frequently mentioned concern of online learners. The online environment provides many opportunities for meaningful feedback for students. In discussion forum, instructors can give feedback to students either individually or in groups. Students can also view each other’s work online and offer feedback to their peers. Online quizzes can give students immediate feedback and links to related materials for further study. Among the popular feedback options include, develop a group e-mail list for the class and send weekly notes on class business, encourage students to send private e-mail messages or phone the instructors as appropriate, or send personal notes

Instructional design and e-learning 7

CWIS 26,1

8

throughout the online course to simulate the informal chat that often occur at the beginning of a traditional class. In class where learner’s responses are required, faculty needs to keep track of those who respond and those who do not. One way to do this is to ask the learners to label their responses sequentially. Doing this helps the faculty member keep track of how learners are processing the information. Encourage learners to complete course evaluation. This provides meaningful evaluation not only for faculty improvement but it also is an important way of providing learners with a forum to express concerns, raise course-related issues and to provide other feedbacks. Encourage learners to engage each other in debate. This adds an element of dynamism that provokes lost of interest in the content. Interface design Brown (1997) emphasized interface design must provide ease of navigation, a sense of human interaction and helpfulness and responsiveness to the needs of learners studying in information rich, self-directed medium. The ultimate usefulness of hypertext, computer mediated communications system and cognitive learning strategies depended on an appropriate interface design to enable trouble free and easy access to those features. Learners need to feel confident that they know where they are at any one point in the course and that they can easily make contact with others as the need arises. Siragusa (2000) also observed that reacted to elements of text such as font, size and type as well as screen layouts, screen picture, cartoons and logos. The appropriate use of cartoons appealed to most students. The components of quality in technology-based educational materials include clarity of the graphics, readability of the screens, and how the materials are assembled. The website, for example, should provide for resources that engage students in extensive exploration and collaboration. Learning from web-based is as easy as clicking the mouse button (Ritchie and Hoffman, 1996). Web page designers have focused much of their time identifying what attracts and retains the attention of the casual browser. The uses of graphics, colour, animation, and sound have been used as external stimuli for years to motivate learners, and all can be included in web pages. Some organizations highlight web pages with yearly, weekly, and even daily awards for aesthetically pleasing, technically innovative, and generally creative pages. These examples provide new developers with easy access to see what attracts and holds a user’s attention. It should be noted, however, that simply adding colour and graphics does not ensure motivating pages. Like the use of multiple fonts and styles when the Macintosh was first introduced, excess is often counterproductive. Examples of unattractive web sites are also legion. They can be found through general browsing or by accessing specific locations that compile this information. Students’ involvement Most educators would agree for learning to take place, the learner must actively process and make sense of available information. An active learner will integrate new knowledge more readily than a passive learner. In order to encourage active involvement with the learning material, an instructor must provide opportunities for performance or practice.

Research methodology This study used questionnaire-based survey. The population unit involved students from three selected higher institutions in Malaysia, namely, the Open University Malaysia (OUM), the University Tun Abdul Razak (UNITAR) and the International Islamic University (IIUM). The questionnaire was adapted from Jolliffe et al. (2001). The questionnaire contained five sections with 58 items and was conducted and distributed to the three universities. Five items centred demographic information, seven items on Internet use, ten items on e-learning use, twenty four on instructional design and eleven on suggestions and improvements with an open-ended question for respondents to provide additional information. The scales of measurement used in the questionnaire were as follows: semantic differential scales it was used in part two (internet use) to determine whether the respondents’ perception is positive or negative. Multiple-response was used in part three (e-learning used), where a set of possible answers was offered to the respondent, who was asked to choose one of the answers. A five point Likert scale was used in part four (instructional design). The scale range from 1 ¼ strongly disagree to 5 ¼ strongly agree. Rating scale it was used in part five (suggestions for improvements), assigning number 1 to the most important, 2 to the next most important and so on. The questionnaire was pre-tested by two academics from the instructional design media section at the educational department in IIUM. A pilot study was also conducted on 13 students from C-Excel Department. These students, considered a representative of the sample, volunteered to complete the questionnaire twice in different weeks. There were minor comments provided by the students about some of the questions in the questionnaire. These comments resulted in the appropriate modification of the questionnaire. The primary data was collected from the questionnaires and the main aim was to examine the student’s participation in e-learning systems through the elements of instructional design. The majority of the questions was written in five-point Likert-scale formats and was then administered to students at the three institutions of higher learning. The questionnaires were given to the facilitators at the three universities. Since the students were available only at a particular time, it took about one to two months’ time to collect the questionnaires back from the respondents. Out of 200 questionnaires, 174 questionnaires were collected, comprising 49 students from IIUM, 36 from UNITAR and 93 from Open University. Since there were no major changes to the questionnaire following the pilot survey, the responses from the pilot study are included in the final total of received questionnaires. Data were analysed using SPSS 12.0. Results Respondents’ profile As shown by Table I, more than half of the respondents were female (66.1 per cent), where as the male respondents formed 33.9 per cent. Some researchers suggested that female students are better suited to web-based learning than male students (Fredericksen et al., 2000; Swan et al., 2000), because of their responsibilities at home and work. But Blum (1999) reported that male students tended to dominate in web-based learning in much the same way they did in FTF communication. Table I demonstrates that almost half of the students (46.0 per cent) were 18-19 years old, while (32.2 per cent) of the respondents were 20-21 years, 12.1 per cent above 22 and only 9.6

Instructional design and e-learning 9

CWIS 26,1

Demographic information Gender Year of study Male Female 1st year 2nd year 3rd year 4th year Postgraduate Full-time Part-time IIUM UNITAR Open University

n 56 115 7 81 82 4 1 40 138 49 36 93

Valid (%) 33.9 66.1 4.0 46.3 46.9 2.3 0.6 22.5 77.5 27.5 20.2 52.2

10
Nature of program University Table I. Respondents’ profile

per cent were under 18 years old. This finding contrasted with Fredericksen et al. (2000) and Swan et al. (2000) reported that the relationship between age and perceived learning was not in the direction predicted, with the youngest students reporting that they learned the least and were least satisfied with web-based learning. Table I also shows that it is very obvious that the majority (93.1 per cent) of the respondents were undergraduate students in their second and third year. While a small proportion of them were in the first year and less than one percent were postgraduate students. Most of the respondents were part-time students (77.5 per cent). A total of 22 percent of the respondents were full time students. The previous tables show that most of the respondents were female and young. A possible explanation for such observations was that female students want to study but at the same time have to pay for their own fees. This finding concurred with the findings by Hong et al. (2003) reported that students who studying part-time and paying their own fees, regardless of their age and gender, students were motivated to learn and have expectation toward the web-based course. As shown by Table I, the respondents mostly came from Open University (52.2 per cent), then IIUM (27.5 per cent) and only 20 per cent students were from UNITAR. In conclusion, it was found that the majority of the students from the sample were young and female who were working and studying part time. E-learning is not only for adult and working people, e-learning could be for every one due to the many benefits that e-learning offers. For example, e-learning provide the ability to learn at any time and any place, allow learners to work on their own pace, breaking down the walls between the classroom and the outside world, allows learners to customize the learning material to their own needs and process and understands the learning materials better and finally, allows learners to access enormous amount of information easily and quickly. Table II shows the results of internet use and their opinions on the computer facilities at their universities. Table II shows almost half of the students accessing the internet from home. A total of 21 percent of the respondents access it from their offices and only a small proportion (15.2 per cent) of the students’ access from campus. Majority of the students access the internet, from one to three hours per week (44 per cent), 22.6 per cent of the students access the internet between four to six hours per week and only 15.8 per cent access the internet for seven to nine hours a week. Not many respondents access the internet more than 10 hours (17.5 per cent). Only half of

Items 1. From where do you access the internet: Home Campus Both (Home and Campus) Office ´ )? Others (Cyber Cafe 2. How many hours a week: 1-3 hours 4-6 hours 7-9 hours 10 hours or more? 3. Opinion about the following: (a) Connection to the internet at home: Satisfied Neutral Unsatisfied (b) Location of computers at university: Accessible Neutral Inaccessible (c) Number of computers at university: Sufficient Neutral Insufficient (d) Opening hours of computer labs at university: Very long Neutral Too short (e) Loading speed of computer labs at university: Very fast Neutral Very slow

n 87 27 14 38 12 73 40 28 31

Valid (%) 48.9 15.2 7.9 21.3 6.7 44.0 22.6 15.8 17.5

Instructional design and e-learning 11

84 36 43 57 44 54 50 40 63 43 43 54 51 45 44

51.6 23.0 25.4 36.8 28.4 34.9 29.9 27.2 42.9 30.7 30.7 38.6 36.4 32.6 31.5 Table II. Internet use

the students were satisfied with the connection to the internet at home (51 per cent). A total of 22 per cent were not satisfied with the internet and the remaining 23 per cent did not have any problem with the internet (neutral). One-third (37 per cent) of the students felt that the location of labs is accessible, whereas 35 per cent thought the reverse. The number of computer labs at the university is found to be insufficient by majority of the students (42.9 per cent). The opening hours of the computer labs at the universities, are long enough according to 39 per cent of the students, while the majority of the students (39 per cent) found it too short for them to access the labs. Many students (36 per cent) found that the loading speed at computer labs of the university is very fast while 32 per cent found it very slow. It was learnt that most of the students used computers at home. This could be due to previous bad experience with computers at universities, as suggested by Lan et al. (2003). As with any revolutionary teaching methods, distance education (especially online instruction) did not grow without meeting obstacles.

CWIS 26,1

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Table III demonstrates that most of the respondents (60 per cent) have been using the web-based learning for more than two years, while 40 per cent have been using the web-based-learning facility for more than six months. The hours that the students spent on online learning were on the whole one to two hours only per week (46 per cent). The same percentage of students spent four to six hours. 14 per cent of the students spent seven to nine hours per week. Students who spent more than ten hours weekly constituted 25 per cent of the respondents. The present study found that majority of the students have been using e-learning for more than two years, since 80 per cent of respondents were second and third year. It is not surprising that students use e-learning for 1-2 hours, since they just use the internet for 1-3 hours per week. Schrum (2002) revealed that students without regular access to appropriate tools, at home or at their work tend to have more difficulty in succeeding in online learning. Those with reliable access at home were considered to be at a distinct advantage, because they are able to focus on their learning on their own schedule. The author revealed also that most students who dropped out from courses cited a lack of time to complete the work. Virtually all students (90 per cent) are working al least 10 hours/week outside the home while they are taking an online course, and 55 per cent are working 30 hours/week or more. In this section, students were asked about their opinions, whether they preferred studying online or FTF (the traditional way). As shown in Table IV, 37 per cent of the respondents disagreed to the statement that web-based learning is more convenient than attending the regular lectures/tutorials. However, a small number of respondents (20 per cent) admitted that they agreed with the statement, while 43 per cent are neutral towards the statement. From Table IV, 34 per cent disagreed to the statement that they communicate more with students using e-mail and bulletin board than they normally do, while 20 per cent agreed and the rest (46 per cent) have neutral responses. About equal number of students disagreed (32 per cent) and agreed (30 per cent) with the statement that they would communicate more using e-mail and bulletin board with their lecturers than they normally do, while 38 per cent were not sure. Students who enjoyed web-based learning and felt more motivated to learn compared to attending regular lectures were as many as those who did not (28 per cent). Almost half (42 per cent) of the respondents have answered neutral to this statement. Only 17 per cent of the respondents felt that they learnt more from the web-based learning compared to regular lectures, 31 per cent disagreed that they enjoyed web-based learning and felt
Items (a) How long have you been using web-based learning? More than six months More than two years (b) How many hours per week? 1-2 hours 4-6 hours 7-9 hours 10 hours or more n 69 102 78 24 24 42 Valid (%) 40.4 59.7 46.4 14.3 14.3 25.0

Table III. E-learning use

No. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

Statement The web-based learning is more convenient than attending regular lectures/tutorials I communicate more using e-mail and bulletin boards with students than I normally do I communicate more using e-mail and bulletin boards with lecturers than I normally do I enjoyed more and felt more motivated to learn compared with regular lectures I learned more from web-based learning compared with regular lectures The web-based learning is an effective supplement to the traditional lectures/tutorials I would choose to take another web-based learning module Given the choice between studying by using the traditional lecture/tutorial and web-based learning I prefer the web-based learning

Respondents (%) Disagree Neutral Agree 37 34.3 32.4 27.6 31.2 33.2 29.9 32.9 43.4 45.9 37.6 42.1 43.9 33.7 40.4 36.4 19.7 19.8 30.0 27.5 24.8 33.1 29.8 30.6

Instructional design and e-learning 13

Table IV. Comparison of the web-based with face-to-face learning

more motivated to learn more compare to attending regular lectures. In response to the statement that, “I learnt more from web-based learning compared to regular lectures”, about 31 per cent disagreed, 24.8 per cent agreed and 43.9 per cent were not sure. Instructional design This section shows the results of the perception of students towards instructional design principles, namely, course content, interaction, user interface, feedback and student involvement. Table V shows the mean responses of the perception of students towards online learning course content. The mean responses ranged from 3.09 to 3.46. The high mean

No. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

Statement The text is easy to read and understand The materials contain a lot of information about the topics covered The graphics are helpful to my learning materials The audio and video were helpful to my learning materials I gained a good understanding of the topic covered in the module There are many examples and illustrations used in the module The material in the module was well organized and easy to find The materials are both interesting and engaging

Disagree 18.1 17.7 24.3 25.6 23.6 17.4 28.4 22.6

Respondents (%) Neutral Agree 20.9 26.9 18.6 20.7 29.3 52.4 23.9 47.7 61 55.4 54.1 53.7 47.1 30.2 47.7 29.7

Mean 3.46 3.44 3.41 3.30 3.26 3.25 3.22 3.09 Table V. Instructional design (course content)

CWIS 26,1

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scores would indicate the high percentage of responses on the scale closest to five as indicated by the respondents. The response towards the text is easy to understand has the highest mean score of 3.4 while the response towards “the materials are both interesting and engaging” has the lowest mean score of 3.09. From the results (Table V), it is interesting to note that majority neither agree nor disagree to the statements about “there are many examples and illustrations used in the modules” and “the materials are both interesting and engaging”, the scores are 52.4 and 47.7 per cent, respectively. The findings concurred with Graff (2003) who reported that the fundamental characteristics of web-based instructional systems are their non-sequential arrangement of information content, and their facility for allowing the linking of information, which is conceptually related. Therefore, it is conceivable that such a system provides the potential for presenting instructional information more effectively than traditional linear methods of delivery, because the interrelationships between units of information can be explicitly illustrated within the web structure. Table VI shows the percentage of responses and mean responses of the perception of students towards web-based interaction. A high mean value indicates a positive response rate. From Table VI, surprisingly, the mean value for all responses on interaction is lower than 3.0, i.e. ranging from 2.62 to 2.77. In general the students are not pleased with the interaction on web-based learning. The findings of the study are not in line with study by Spiceland (2002). Table VII shows the perception of students towards user interface in an online learning environment. The mean response rate falls between 2.72 and 3.30. Responses towards two statements, “I find navigating in the web-based learning easy” and “the speed of response of the web-based learning is acceptable” were below 3.0. The
Respondents (%) Neutral Agree 25.0 29.4 28.5 27.3 19.2 22.6

No. 1. 2. Table VI. Interaction 3.

Statements I interact a greater number of times with my lecturer in online course than in face-face format My interaction with lecturer in online course is of a higher quality than interaction in face-to-face I’m highly satisfied with the interaction I have with lecturer about course/technical problems

Disagree 47.8 50.9 48.2

Mean 2.77 2.62 2.67

No. 1. 2. 3. Table VII. Instructional design (user interface) 4. 5.

Statements The help facility is useful The layout of the screen is attractive There is good integration between text, voice and graphics I find navigating in the web-based learning easy The speed of response of the web-based learning is acceptable

Disagree 23.2 25.4 26 29.1 49

Respondents (%) Neutral Agree 25.3 21.4 42.6 43.6 19.3 51.9 53.2 31.3 27.4 29.2

Mean 3.30 3.30 3.05 2.96 2.72

findings indicated that the students were not happy with the speed of web-based response and the navigation through the web-based environment. Feedback is the most frequently mentioned concern of online learners. Table VIII shows that the majority of the respondents were satisfied with the feedback that they get from the lecturers. The mean response rate is greater than 3.0 and ranged between 3.17 and 3.24. The findings indicate that lecturers play a very important role in web-based learning in terms of feedback. This findings is in line with findings made by Siragusa (2002). The data from Table IX indicates that more than half (52 per cent) of the students that have participated in this survey agreed that the lecturer is really enthusiastic about students using discussion areas, on the other hand 15 per cent disagreed with the statement, 36.4 per cent of them answered neutral. The students think that being engaged in the debate and discussion with other lecturers help them to learn more, as the majority of the respondents agreed with the statement, 14 per cent however disagreed. Meanwhile, 30.5 per cent stated neutral. More than half of the students (52 per cent) have agreed that the group discussion provides opportunity to ask questions related to the course at any time. A total of 16 per cent disagreed. The majority (48 per cent) of the respondents agreed that the discussion forum is an integral part of the course rather than an optional extra. However, quite a high percentage (36.2 per cent) of the respondents gave neutral answers. The most important observation from this section is that majority of the students believed that the lecturers/facilitators encourage them to use the discussion areas; this is a form of motivation for the students. Two reasons offered for the use of bulletin
Respondents (%) Neutral Agree 19.9 31.2 27.5 31.4 54.5 43.5 45.1 45.3

Instructional design and e-learning 15

No. 1. 2. 3. 4.

Statement When I e-mail my lecturer I get the reply within one day When I post a question on the bulletin board I get a reply one week later The lecturer marks and returns my assignment within a two-week period The lecturer support with respect to the web-based learning was very good

Disagree 28.7 24.9 27.4 24.3

Mean 3.23 3.18 3.17 3.24 Table VIII. Feedback

No. 1. 2. 3. 4.

Statements The lecturer is really enthusiastic about students using discussion areas I think being engaged in debate and discussion with other lecturers helps me to learn more The group provides an opportunity to ask questions about the course at any time The discussion forum is an integral part of the course, rather than an optional extra

Disagree 14.5 13.7 15.8 15.6

Respondents (%) Neutral Agree 36.4 30.5 32.7 36.2 51.8 55.8 51.5 47.7

Mean 3.40 3.48 3.43 3.34 Table IX. Students’ involvement

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boards. First, they provide a platform for students to engage in critical analysis and discussion of the course content beyond the time frame of traditional class hours, and second, facilitate student-to-student interaction in a way not possible in the traditional classroom. Some students support the idea that computer may increase motivation and/or increase motivated students’ access to the instructor and course material. These findings coincided with that of Weisskirch and Milburn (2003) whereby students were eager about the discussion platform bulletin board, which is borderless and timeless in nature. When students were motivated as such, the level of involvement would be deeper, and would result in better grades, as concluded by Weisskirch and Milburn (2003) whereby frequency of question posting to lecturers was significantly in proportion with higher grades. As for discussion forum, similar findings were reported by Funaro and Montell (1999) who found that the forum could play a unique role in a course one that complements the educational activities of lecture and section. The forum provides many students with the opportunity to lead a discussion without affecting the success of in-class discussion. There may not be enough time in a section to teach students how to lead a discussion as well as to cover the course materials. On the forum students can initiate a topic and work out their own guidelines for discussion. Forum can provide a useful learning ground for leading an intellectual discussion because of the absence of time constraints and the full agenda of the section meetings. Forum also provides students with a space of their own where they can learn from each other. They can share their thinking with each other and comment on each other’s ideas. The forum asynchronous format gave students time to think about their contribution to the discussion and craft their responses in order to convey their ideas most clearly and convincingly. Lastly, forum provides an ongoing environment for students to reflect on text, ask questions, and test out their interpretations and syntheses. As shown in Table X, the most important elements of instructional design in E-learning systems is Students’ Involvement (average mean 3.4) and the least in important is Interaction (average mean 2.70). There was only a very small difference in the means of the different elements of instructional design. Ling et al. (2000) showed that the order of importance of web-based elements at Multimedia University is as such: support, participation, multimedia integration and interaction and engagement. Similarly, this study indicated that students’ involvement (participation) was considered to be very important, and interaction (or learning interaction) to be viewed as moderate in importance. Conclusions This study reports interesting findings and insights. In general, the students of the three universities have good background and experience in using the e-learning
No. 1 2 3 4 5 Instructional design principles Students’ involvement Course content Feedback User interface Interaction Average mean 3.40 3.30 3.21 3.10 2.70

Table X. Instructional design principle

systems. This study found that students were satisfied with the materials in the module, as it were well organized and therefore easy to find, the text was easy to read and understand, the graphics and video complemented the learning materials and contained a lot of information about the topic covered. Unfortunately, not many examples and illustrations were used in the module, rendering the materials less interesting and less engaging. The possible explanation could be, all the multimedia files that contain images, audio, and video are available in CD-ROM format that is so easy to be accessed and downloaded. However, students agreed that they gained a good understanding of the topic covered in the module. The significant findings were that the text was easy to read and the materials contained a lot of information and interesting. IIUM students for example found the content interesting. This is perhaps due to the e-learning system currently in use, which has some interesting, features for example, scream list (shout it out loud and clear) for the students to write any announcements. Besides that, it could be used for the purpose of advertisements and even for displaying images. Even summary such as anniversaries, birthdays, vocations and trips, are also available. The LearningCare (user manual) uses three languages (English, Bahasa Melayu and Arabic), which offers multilingual facilities that caters to every single individual need. Although it is generally useful to have more interaction, the students were not satisfied at all with the interaction that they encountered in web-based learning. They disagreed that the students interacted a greater number of times with their lecturer in online course than face-to-face interaction. They found that online interaction with lecturer did not guarantee a high quality interaction compared to face-to-face interaction. They had experiences of lecturers who did not communicate with the students in the forum and never answered any questions online. These results indicated that lecturers and facilitators must be sensitive to the students’ need. The lecturers or facilitators should be motivated, and responsible to reply the e-mails, post regular questions on the bulletin board and return the assignment within a specified time. As mentioned before, IIUM uses the learning tracking (learning track) facilities, considered a very important feature in e-learning system. This facility enables the lecturers to monitor the usage of the facilities and content provided for subscribers. Since IIUM’s system had the oft-mentioned tracking facilities, sending reminders to students to access web-based system become the norm. Students are thus stimulated to link to the system. The study found that students appreciated the attractive layout of the screen and the help facility was useful. These findings are consistent with Siragusa (2000) who observed students reacting to elements of text such as font, size and type as well as screen layouts, screen picture, cartoons, logos and so on. The appropriate use of cartoons appeals to most students. The components of quality in technology-based educational materials include clarity of the graphics, readability of the screens, and how the materials are assembled. A good web is not only good looking, exciting, considerate, but also conducive for learning. Generally, a good design means a simple one and a designer should be sensitive to these. The findings of this study have several implications. Among them include learners need to be pre-acquainted with course content to achieve desired outcomes. Experts should authenticate the course content and be held responsible in capturing the interest of the learners. E-learning system should deliver maximal learning in minimal time, yet learner-paced and learner-centred. Assessment and supervision should also be

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conducted on a regular basis to ensure targets are achieved and maintained. Where instruction is delivered via distance learning, there are effective ways that instructors can use to create a sense of community and establish a culture that fosters collegiaty and interaction. Most online course delivery systems include a synchronous communications tool, such as the chat room, as well as interactive asynchronous tools such as the e-mail, listserv, thread discussion and bulletin board. These tools can be used to maintain high levels of communication among class and between the class members and the lecturers to promote the desired levels of interactivity.
References Blum, K.D. (1999), “Gender differences in asynchronous learning in higher education: learning styles, participation barriers and communication patterns”, Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, Vol. 3 No. 1, p. 14. Brown, A. (1997), “Designing for learning: what are the essential features of an effective online course?”, Australian Journal of Educational Technology, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 115-29. Chandra, D. (2002), “For successful e-learning endeavors”, New Straits Times, July 29. Chou, C. (2003), “Interactivity and interactive function in web-based learning systems: a teaching framework for designers”, British Journal of Educational Technology, Vol. 34 No. 3, pp. 265-79. Fredericksen, E., Pickett, A., Plez, W., Shea, P. and Swan, K. (2000), “Student satisfaction and perceived learning with online courses: principles and examples from SUNY learning network”, Journal of Asynchronous Leaning Network, Vol. 4 No. 2. Funaro, G.M. and Montell, F. (1999), “Pedagogical roles and implementation guidelines for online communication tools”, ALN Magazine, Vol. 3 No. 2, December. Graff, M. (2003), “Learning from web-based instructional systems and cognitive style”, British Journal of Educational Technology, Vol. 34 No. 4, pp. 407-18. Hong, K.-S., Riduan, A.A. and Kuek, M.-K. (2003), “Students’ attitude toward the use of the internet for learning: a study at university in Malaysia”, Educational Technology & Society, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 45-9. Jaiballan, M. and Asirvatham, D. (2003), Multimedia Learning System (MMLS): Malaysia Grown E-learning Engine, Multimedia University, Cyberjaya. Jolliffe, A., Ritter, J. and Steven, D. (2001), The Online Learning Handbook, No. 4, Routledge, London, pp. 249-77. Khan, B.H. (2003), “Evaluation of e-learning system”, available at: www.bookstored.com/ elearning Lan, W., Tallent-Runnels, M.K., Fryer, W., Thomas, J., Cooper, S. and Wang, K. (2003), “An examination of the relationship between technology problems and teaching evaluation of online instruction”, Internet and Higher Education, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 365-75. Ling, S.W., Khong, C.W. and Lee, C.S. (2000), “An evolving instructional design model for web-based course: a case study in Malaysia”, Multimedia University, Cyberjaya. McLoughlin, C. (1999), “The implication of research literature on learning style for the design of instructional materials”, Australian Journal of Education Technology, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 222-41. Moore, G.S., Winograd, K. and Lange, D. (2001), You Can Teach Online: Building a Creative Learning Environment, McGraw-Hill, New York, NY. Oliver, R., Herrington, J. and Omari, A. (1997), “Creating effective instructional materials for the world wide web”, available at: http://cleo.murdoch.edu.au/ajet/ajet15/oliver.html.

Puteh, M. and Hussin, S. (2007), "A comparative study of e-learning practices at Malaysian private universities", paper presented at the 1st International Malaysian Educational Technology Convention 2007, Sofitel Palm Resort, Senai, Johor Bahru, 2-5 November. Ragan, L.C. (1999), “Good teaching is good teaching: an emerging set of guiding principles for the design and development of distance education”, Cause/Effect, Vol. 22 No. 1, available at: www.educause.edu/ir/library/html/cem9915.html. Ritchie, D. and Hoffman, B. (1996), Using the WWW for Instruction, not Just Information, Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE) SITTE ’96, Phoenix/Mesa, AZ. Schrum, L. (2002), “Dimensions and strategies for online success: voice from experienced educators”, Journal of Asynchronous Learning Network, Vol. 6 No. 1, July. Siragusa, L. (2000), “Instructional design meets online learning in higher education”, Australian Journals of Educational Technology, Vol. 27 No. 13, pp. 95-104. Siragusa, L. (2002), “Research into the effectiveness of online learning in higher education: survey findings”, WAIER forum 2002, available at: http://education.curtin.edu.au/waier/forums/ 2002/siragusa.html. Spiceland, D. (2002), “The impact on learning of an asynchronous active learning course format”, Journal of Asynchronous Learning Network, Vol. 6 No. 1, July. Swan, K., Shea, P., Fredericksen, E., Pickett, A., Plez, W. and Maher, G. (2000), “Building knowledge, building communities: consistencies, contact and communication in the virtual classroom”, Journal of Educational Computing Research, Vol. 23 No. 4, pp. 359-83. Weisskirch, R.S. and Milburn, S.S. (2003), “Virtual discussion: understanding college students’ electronic bulletin board use”, Internet and Higher Education, Vol. 6 No. 4, pp. 215-25. Further reading Gay, L.R. (1992), Educational Research: Competencies for Analysis and Application, 4th ed., Macmillan, New York, NY. Gay, L.R. and Airasian, P. (2003), Educational Research: Competencies for Analysis and Application, 7th ed., Merrill/Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, pp. 112-282. Grigorovici, D., Nam, S. and Russill, C. (2003), “The effects of online syllabus interactivity on students’ perception of the course and instructor”, Internet and Higher Education, Vol. 6 No. 3, pp. 41-52. Hashim, K. (2001), “Virtual university implementation: a paradigm shift for instructors and learners”, available at: www.unitar.edu.my. Moore, M.G. (1996), “Distance education: a system view”, available at: www. distance-educator.com/dnews/modules.php?op ¼ modload&name ¼ Sections&file ¼ index&req ¼ viewarticle&a..-30k. Simonson, M., Schlosser, C. and Hanson, D. (1999), “Theory and distance education: a new discussion”, American Journal of Distance Education, Vol. 13, pp. 60-75. Thorpe, M. (1988), Evaluating Open and Distance Learning, Longman, Harlow. Corresponding author Husnayati Hussin can be contacted at: husnayati@kict.iiu.edu.my

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