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Acceptance Factors for Web based learning under the sustainability issues

Nikolaos Kourakos,
Hellenic Navy, PhD (c), MSc, MSc
E-mail: snadek@yahoo.com

Penelope Kaouni,
E-learning consultant, IT Engineer
E-mail: nkaouni@gmail.com

Abstract

The today’s economy, the knowledge-based economy has an ever-increase demand
for new ways of delivery education. This issue has led to very dynamic changes in
learning activities. The new K-economy requires people and especially working staff
to acquire knowledge and skills in a timely manner and to make decisions under
various circumstances. So the issues of life long learning, adults learning and
continuous training is a major issue. The delivery of instruction and teaching
materials electronically to remote students via internet is what we call web based
learning.
There is a plethora of factors that need to be considered while implementing a web
based learning solution. There is a need to identify the factors that support and boost
sustainability of electronically mediated learning. One of the most critical factors is
the acceptance of the solution from the participants. Performing a literature review,
we found a noticeable number of researches in this area.
This paper makes an exploratory study in the area of web based learning and use the
wide spread TAM model in order to exam the technology acceptance of this solution,
especially by adult learners of KEE.
The investigation of acceptance judged to be useful for both teacher and students
especially under the sustainability issues.

1. Introduction

1.1 Sustainability

According to the dictionary, sustainability is the ability to prolong or to supply with
sustenance. The key term ‘Sustainability’ has been interpreted as ‘keeping things
going in the present and feature’ in a way that is beneficial to all stakeholders. In
other words sustainability means medium and long-term success.
According to Kruppa et al, (2002, p.6) transferring the term ‘sustainability’ or the
related term ‘stability’ to web based Learning means “developing stable structures,
which are integrated institutionally and the result in fundamental changes in
teaching”.
Seufert (2007) give us a multi-dimension approach the sustainable web based learning
as follows:

Dimension Context / focus
Economic dimension. The focus here is on efficiency and
effectiveness regarding the use of
available resources.
Pedagogic dimension This perspective focuses on the pedagogic
aspects.
Organizational-administrative dimension. This perspective focuses on efficiency of
structure and processes.
Technical dimension. The primary goal of this approach is the
stability and functionality of the IT
infrastructure. Nowadays the impact of
ICT stressed too much.
Socio-cultural dimension. This point of view relates with diffusion
effects of web based learning. The
promotion of the electronically mediated
learning is another main principal of this
dimension.

The figure1 below summarizes all these dimensions.

Figure1. Sustainability Approaches for web based learning

In this study we focus on Socio-culture and Technical dimensions. Nowadays the
rapid growth of the available web based learning platforms is a fact. Many technical
approaches, many software products, many new versions probably mean many
technical problems. Further more the pedagogic approach is in many cases a serious
problem. We can describe the situation here as a complex one. If students and
lecturers link the usage of the web based learning (by technical means) with problems,
then a lot of efforts and recourses are being spent on stabilising the web based
learning system which increase the possibility of disconfirmation and finally drives to
rejecting. Seufert (2007) states that in web based learning ‘user friendly’ and student
(customer) centric environment is a critical success factor for sustainability.

1.2 Quality and satisfaction of web based educational services.

The terms quality and service are wide used and under more often different means. In
this paper we adopt the International Standard Organization (ISO) definition, that
describes “quality is a totality of characteristics of an entity (a process, a product, an
organization or any combination) that bear on its ability to satisfy stated and implied
needs” (ISO 8402). More specifically in web based learning we can say that is “the
ability to reach a specific goal in efficiency, effectively, in safe and/or with
satisfaction at specific user situation that is education learning, etc” (ISO/IEC9126-
4).

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In ISO regulations (ISO9000:2000) service is “intangible product that is the result of
at least one activity performed at the interface between the supplier and customer,
e.g. knowledge is a intangible product to be delivered”. Finally we can say that
service quality (and specifically educational service quality) is an overall collection of
both, implicit and explicit characteristic that the service can satisfy the customer.
The customer satisfaction in web based learning area is equivalent to student
satisfaction. Arbaugh (2000a, 2000b, 2000c) identifies five general factors that may
influence the student learning and satisfaction with web based learning:

• Perceived usefulness of course
• Flexibility
• Interaction
• Student experience, and
• Engagement

The figure2 below summarizes all these dimensions.

Figure2. Factors that influence the student learning and satisfaction

The introduction of a web based learning system can described according to Euler
and Wilbers (2002) as “a foreign body is getting implemented in a system. Either it
adapts and will not be regarded as alien or it will continuously be identified as a
foreign body and be eventually rejected from the system.”
So the adaptation and integration of web based learning systems in central process of
an educational provider becomes more and more urgent. Seufert (2007) claims that
acceptance and openness toward web based learning is a seriously helpful factor.
According to researcher “Attitudes and pre-knowledge, self study competence,
previous negative experiences with computer-based teaching/learning formats” affect
the acceptance considerably.
Additional research Harasim et al. (1997) indicates that quality factor of online
programs must be addressed in course planning and developing.

2. The Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) as a tool for investigate acceptance
for web based educational services

In this research area there is a slightly wide variety of models that tries to explain the
adoption of information systems. Rogers (1983), give us a general framework of

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technology acceptance within the theory of diffusion of innovations (TID). Fishbein
& Ajzen (1977) developed their theory of reasoned action (TRA). As an extension of
TRA, Ajzen (1985) introduced the theory of planned behaviour (TPB). But maybe the
most well-known and widely accepted and cited model is the technology acceptance
model (TAM). Davis (1985) developed the TAM to explain the computer usage and
acceptance of information technology. As Money & Turner (2004) notice, the
Institute for Scientific Information Social Science Citation indexed more than 300
journal citations of the initial TAM paper published by Davis et al. (1989). The
Davis’ model is shown in Figure3 below:

Figure3. Technology Acceptance Model (Davis, 1989).

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According to Davis (1993, p.1) ‘user acceptance is often the pivotal factor determine
the success or failure of a system’. The term external variables include all the system
design features. These features have a direct influence on perceived usefulness (PU)
and perceived easy of use (PEOU), while attitude toward using has an indirect
influence effect to the actual system use. Davis (1993, p. 477) defines PEOU as “the
degree to which an individual believes that using a particular system would be free of
physical and mental effort”, and PU as “the degree to which an individual believes
that using a particular system would be enhance his/her job performance. As Davis et
al (1989) states, the goal is to provide us with an explanation of the determinants of
systems acceptance. Similar to TRA user beliefs determine the attitude toward using
the information system. This attitude drives to intention behavior to use which lead to
actual system use.
Dishaw and Strong (1999, pp. 9-21) pointed out a weak point of TAM about task
focus. According to them TAM differs from TRA “in two keys”. The first is that
define PEOU and PU as external variables that determine the intension to use not the
actual use. The second key is that TAM does not include subjective norms.
Yi (2005), claims that TAM and IDT have similarities, More specific PEOU and PU
are conceptual similar to relative advantage and complexity (the opposite of easy of
use). As Taylor and Todd (1995) claims, TAM performs slightly better compared
with the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB).

3. The Research Framework
3.1 Profile of respondents
In an attempt to achieve an evaluation process in the academic field of the adults
educational centre (KEE) based on the time pressure and the sorted sources, the
original TAM questionnaire was chosen. Based on the work of Davis, this
questionnaire is a well known valid and reliable tool.

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There has been a distribution of 50 pilot questionnaires to students and 50 of them
have been filled in, that is 100%. The analytical explanation about the way of filling
the questionnaire from the educating staff of the school, led to the respectively high
percentage of usable answers. This high percentage of the trainees’ participation
could reflect the intense interest of the participants in this subject, while it is also
revealed a positive approach on the participation of the students in the new academic
place.
Our sample consists of 60% males and 40% females. The relevant table of
frequencies analysis follows.
Table1. Gender.
Cumulative
Frequency Percent Valid Percent Percent
Valid male 30 60,0 60,0 60,0
female 20 40,0 40,0 100,0
Total 50 100,0 100,0

The next table describes the participant’s distribution according to level of training
(there are four levels of training scale).

Table2. The population among training levels
Cumulative
Frequency Percent Valid Percent Percent
Valid 1 30 60,0 60,0 60,0
2 10 20,0 20,0 80,0
3 5 10,0 10,0 90,0
4 5 10,0 10,0 100,0
Total 50 100,0 100,0

We may observe that for a sample of 50 students, 30 of them that is to say 60% are
1st year students (60%), 10 students of 2nd year (20%), and 5 students for year 3 and
4 respectively.

3.2 Descriptive elements.
The first question examines if the students of the sample believes that «Using e-
learning improves the quality of the work I do» (VAR_PU_1). The variable can take
5 different values (Likert scale). The value 1 corresponds to not at all; the value 2 to a
little; the third (3) values correspond to moderate; the value 4 corresponds to much
and the value 5 corresponds to very much. The relevant table and its graph of
frequencies analysis follows.

Table3. Question1 (Variable VAR_PU_1).

Frequency Percent Valid Percent Cumulative Percent
Valid 1 1 2,0 2,0 2,0
2 3 6,0 6,0 8,0
3 18 36,0 36,0 44,0
4 22 44,0 44,0 88,0
5 6 12,0 12,0 100,0
Total 50 100,0 100,0

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We may observe that from a sample of 50 valid answers 22 students, that is to say
44% percentage, concerned the web based learning has a strong positive impact to
their studies (job). There are also 18 statements for the option moderate, a 50%
percentage, while 6 students, a 12% percentage concerned that web based learning has
a very strong impact. The cumulative percentage of the negative statements a 10%
percentage, is not important. However it is clear that the students are positive that web
based learning improves the quality of their studies in a quite high percentage.
The next questions aim at the record of the importance of a series of factors in relation
with the perceived usefulness. These factors are the following:

• Greater control over my work (studies)
• Enables to accomplish task more quickly
• Support critical aspects of my studies
• Increase productivity
• Improves my performance.
• Allows to accomplish more work otherwise be possible
• Enhances my effectiveness on the jib (studies)
• Makes it easier to do my job
• Overall, I find web based learning useful in my job.

Each case is recorded in a variable with the name Var_PU_2, Var_PU_3 etc. Each
one of the variables takes values from 1 to 5. The table of the dominant values, the
total observations and the corresponding percentage of each variable, with the
appropriate graph are presented below.

Table 4. Variables related with Perceived Usefulness
Variable Dominant Percentage
value
Greater control over my work (studies) 3 44 %
(Var_PU_2).
Enables to accomplish task more 2 34 %
quickly (Var_PU_3).
Support critical aspects of my studies 4 46 %
projects (Var_PU_4).
Increase productivity 3 42 %
(Var_PU_5).
Improves my performance process 3 42 %
(Var_PU_6).
Allows to accomplish more work 3 38 %
otherwise be possible Var_PU_7).
Enhances my effectiveness on the job 4 54%
(studies) (Var_PU_8).
Makes it easier to do my job 4 40%
(Var_PU_9).
Overall, I find web based learning 4 60%
useful in my job (Var_PU_10).

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Graph1 Variables (VAR_PU_2 – 10)

At this point we may observe the following. The ‘Greater control over my work’ has
22 observations (44%), with preference 3, in a scale of 1-5, that a medium
importance. For the third question, named ‘Enables to accomplish task more quickly’
the dominant choice was 2, that means little effect on quickly completion, with 17
answers (34%). For the ‘supporting critical aspects’ the dominant value is 4, the

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second most important, with 23 reports (46%). Students are very impressed with web
based learning in terms of supporting tool. The productivity remains a critical
problem in any case. In our case students believes that web based learning has a
moderate impact on this issue. For the productivity the dominant value is 3, third from
the importance perspective, with 21 reports (42%). The next question related with the
increase of the performance. In this issue the dominant choice was 3, third from the
importance perspective, with 21 reports (42%). It reveals a balanced belief concerning
the increase of productivity web based learning between the members of the students’
community. For the ability to accomplish more work using web we also the dominant
value was again 3, a balanced belief and response with 19 reports. The next question
is about effectiveness. At this point an impressive percentage of 54% or in other
words 27 reports prove that students strongly agree with this hypothesis. The ‘easier
way to do my job –via web’ has also become a serious important factor with a
particularly high frequency. The 20 reports that mean a 40% percentage confirm that.
Last of this set of questions was about the overall usefulness of web based learning.
Maybe it was the most critical question. The answers here were very impressive. A
very impressive percentage 60% (in other words 30 students) finds web based
learning overall useful in their studies. The dominant value was 4, second from the
importance perspective. The graph for the crucial last question (question 10) follows:

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Graph2. Variable (VAR_PU_10)

3.3 Limitations of the study.
As with all empirical research, this study has a few limitations. Referring to the
limitations of the present study we have to mention the following:
• It was not possible to make this research also on other adults educating
institutions of the area, of the same field, in order to compare the students of
different institutions.
• It was not extended on students of other fields in the same or different
institution.
• There could also be included post-graduate students, in order compare the pre-

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graduate and the post-graduate sample groups.

4. Conclusions
However every attempt of building a sustainable web based learning system, apart
from the theoretical knowledge and the technical documentation, also requires the
adoption and the active support of those that it addresses that is the students. The
research that we have done on the students of Adults Centre (KEE) intended to record

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a series of factors relevant adoption of a web based learning implementation.

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