You are on page 1of 11

CouldInstitutionalVirtualLearningEnvironmentsbeStiflingthe

PossibilitiesofLearning?
JeromeTerpaseDooga
DepartmentofEnglish,FacultyofArts,UniversityofJos,Nigeria
zwakausu@gmail.com

Abstract: Technology has a positive role to play in education, yet this role and its impact on learning are not necessarily
either well established or well understood. Higher educational institutions around the world are embracing its use in
various forms to support learning. African universities, both residential and distance learning institutions, are embracing
these new technologies and the associated learning opportunities. To support both the practice and research of this
adoption of new technology for teaching and learning, seven universities in six African countries, namely Ghana, Kenya,
Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda each received support through the Partnership for Higher Education (PHEA)
EducationalTechnologyInitiative(ETI)from2009to2013.Thispaperreportsonaninterinstitutionalsurveytodetermine
towhatextentinstitutionalelearningplatformssuchasMoodlecontributetogrowingpossibilitiesoflearning;also,how
socialmediaapplicationsandtoolssuchasFacebookandTwitter,aswellasotheremergingtechnologiesarebeingusedto
support learning in the ETIsupported universities. The analysis is based on data from 36 respondents across the seven
institutions. The survey was administered online using Survey Monkey. The aim is to assess how the various changes
relatingtotheuseoftechnologyforteachingwhichwerebroughtaboutorfacilitatedbytheETIhaveaffectedtechnology
adoptionintheseinstitutions.Datawasgatheredandanalysedusingcontentanalysismethodologies.Selectivereduction
was used to determine significant themes embedded within the survey response data. The data was read, coded and
categorized by drawing out words, phrases and segments. These categories were then analyzed to highlight patterns
emergingfromthedata.

Keywords:virtuallearningenvironments(VLE),learningmanagementsystems(LMS),Moodle,highereducation,
institutionalpolicies,socialmedianetworks
1. Introduction
In higher education, using elearning systems is believed to be one of the most crucial developments due to
the use of IT in this arena in the last decade (Alsabawy, CaterSteel, Soar, 2011; McGill & Klobas, 2009). The
past few years have experienced an upsurge regarding the contribution of ICT in redressing Africas
educational challenges (Hollow and ICWE 2009). In particular, African Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs)
havewitnessedtheriseofLearningManagementSystems(LMS).Almostadecadeago,whenLMSsweremuch
fewer,theirusewaslimitedtoinstitutionsinEuropeandtheUnitedStatesandtheirfunctionalitieswerestill
intheirinfancy,Coates,JamesandBaldwin(2005)notedthatthereissomethingsoseductiveaboutLMSthat,
despite their complexities and risks, almost every university seems compelled to have one (23). They
identifiedkeydriverstotheeageradoptionbyinstitutions.Oneofthesedrivers,wasthepromiseofenriched
student learning, especially the view that online learning would reinforce and enhance a diverse suite of
constructivist pedagogies by allowing students to access a greater range of resources and materials. This
expectation has survived to this day. But even in its early days, there were those who doubted that the LMS
was a pedagogically appropriate platform for learning. Coates et al (2005) observed that LMS are not
pedagogicallyneutraltechnologies.Bytheirverydesign,theyargue,LMSinfluenceandguideteachingasthey
shapeandevendefineteachersimaginations,expectationsandbehaviours(27).

AreportbyUnwinetal.(2010)ontheuseofLMSacrossinstitutionsin25Africancountries,basedona2007
study, concluded that while there are some enthusiastic advocates of such systems, the reality is that most
Africaneducatorsasyethavelittleknowledgeabout,orinterestin,theirusage.Thereportidentifiedlackof
donorfundingtocreateopportunitiesforstafftraining,inadequatebandwidthandtheabsenceofinstitutional
elearningpoliciesasprincipalfactorsthatwerehinderingthespreadofLMSinAfrica.

The present study is more narrowly focused, involving seven universities in six African countries. These
institutions have drawn on donor funding from the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa Educational
Technology Initiative (PHEA ETI). Nearly all of them have some form of institutional elearning strategy or
policyandnearlyalluseMoodle.Byelearningwemeannotmerelyemailandsurfingtheweb,aswasthecase
intheUnwinstudy,buthaveincludedallformsofeducationaltechnologyinlearningandteaching.Thisraises
importantquestionsaroundtheimpactonlearningofthegrowingaccesstotechnologyattheseinstitutions.
125

JeromeTerpaseDooga
ThereislimitededucationalresearchintothepedagogicalimpactofLMSinAfricanHigherEducation.Thereis
evenmorelimitedresearchintotheextenttowhichLMScontributetothepossibilitiesoflearning,especially
in the light of emerging, alternative media such as social network applications. In order to identity topics for
research,therehavebeenmanysmallscaledescriptivecasestudies,mostlyinSouthAfricaninstitutionswhich
examine the impact of ICTs in teaching and learning. Often, these studies isolate specific technologies or the
applicationofICTsinaparticularcourse.OnesuchstudywasconductedbyScheepersandDelport(2010)on
thelevelofuseofclickUP,theLMSattheUniversityofPretoria.AfterinstallingandusingclickUPforabouta
decade, a 2007 audit of modules on the system found that 80% of these modules used only the most basic
functions within the system (1065). Therefore, the Scheepers and Delport (2010) study set out to gauge
perceptions on the educational value of a Learning Management System at the University of Pretoria, a
residential South African university. The research sought answers to questions similar to those proposed by
Hall(2010)regardingthedisseminationofaninnovation.Hallproposedfourquestions,namely:
Isitbeingused?
Howwellisitbeingused?
Whatfactorsareaffectingitsuse/nonuse?
Whataretheoutcomes?
Especially regarding the question of how well the system is being used, the research concluded that the
University of Pretoria has not yet made costeffective use of the considerable resources invested in clickUP
(1065).Inamorerecentstudy,Venter,JansenvanRensburgandDavis(2012)examinedthedeterminantsof
usageofaLearningManagementSystembyfourthlevelbusinessstudentsattheopenanddistancelearning
programmeoftheUniversityofSouthAfrica(UNISA).UsingtheTechnologyAcceptanceModelasatheoretical
base, the research confirmed that, by and large, perceived usefulness (PU) of a system is the principal
determinanttoitsuse.

Regardingtheuseofsocialmedia,KohnandMaier(2009)conductedaresearchbasedonEightinternational
andcrossnationalcasestudiesofelearninginitiativesindevelopingcountriesconductedbetween2005and
2007 and published in the International Journal of Knowledge and Learning, International Journal of
Education using ICT and Globalized Learning and Cultural Challenges. The study examined, from the
published case studies, what social software is used in elearning initiatives in developing countries. The
researchfoundthatdevelopingcountriesstillarelaggingbehindintheuseofsocialsoftwarewithinlearning
environments(32).Barrierstouseofsocialsoftwarewereidentifiedinthestudyastechnologybasedaswell
ascultureandskills.

Moreglobally,severalstudiesinrecenttimeshavefocusedontheuseofsocialmediaineducationalcontexts.
For instance, Luehmann and Tinelli (2008) investigated the use of blogging among 15 practicing secondary
school science teachers enrolled in a Research One university in Western New York. These reformminded
teachers used blogs to support their efforts to develop reformbased practices. Selwyn (2009) examined the
content of the Facebook pages of undergraduate students who were studying at the Coalsville University
SchoolofSocialSciencesintheUK.Theresultsofthestudyshowedthatmuchofstudentseducationrelated
use of this social networking application was based around either the posthoc critiquing of learning
experiences and events, the exchange of logistical or factual information about teaching and assessment
requirements, instances of supplication and moral support with regards to assessment or learning, or the
promotionofoneselfasacademicallyincompetentand/ordisengaged(157).

ThepaperconcludedthatFacebookusemustbeseenasbeingsituatedwithintheidentitypoliticsofbeinga
student...providingareadyspacewheretheroleconflictthatstudentsoftenexperienceintheirrelationships
with university work, teaching staff, academic conventions and expectations can be worked through in a
relativelyclosedbackstagearea(157).AsimilarstudywasconductedbyMadge,Meek,WellensandHooley
(2009). The study showed that Facebook is more for socialising and talking to friends about work than for
actually doing work (141). Most of the suggestions of respondents in the study regarding the educational
value of Facebookwere not to do withthe pedagogic aspects of teaching and learning but more todo with
departmentalormodulerelatedadministrativearrangements(150).

Even so, research suggests that Facebook has the qualities to be a tool for promoting desirable academic
practice.Madge,etalcitesuggestionsmadebyMason(2006)andSelwyn(2007)tosupportthisview.Among
126

JeromeTerpaseDooga
other things, the utility of Facebook lies in its reflective qualities, its mechanisms of peer feedback and its
collaborative models of Learning (148) according to Mason (2006). Selwyn (2007, quoted in Madge, et al)
furthermorenotesthatitsattractivenessliesinitseaseofeducationrelatedinteractionsbetweenstudents,
albeitofteninaninformalway(148).Morebroadly,Ray,Kalvaitis,WheelerandHirtle(2011)investigatedthe
attitudes, behaviours and opinions of teachers to social media use. The 20 respondents were enrolled in a
master of educationdegreeprogram at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. All subjectswere teaching either at
elementary school, middle school, high school, or college level. One noteworthy finding from the study was
that teachers believed that the major benefit of social media was staying in touch with others, while the
majorchallengewastime(867).
2. Backgroundtothestudy
In 2009 the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa (PHEA) supported seven African universities located in
six countries to help them make increasingly effective use of educational technology to address some of the
underlying educational challenges facing higher education in Africa by implementing an Educational
TechnologyInitiative(ETI).Thebenefitinguniversitieswere,theCatholicUniversityofMozambique,Kenyatta
University, Makerere University (Uganda), University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), University of Education
Winneba (Ghana), University of Ibadan and University of Jos (Nigeria). The partnership was a joint project of
CarnegieCorporationofNewYork,TheFordFoundation,theJohnD.andCatherineT.MacArthurFoundation,
the Rockefeller Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation,
andtheKresgeFoundation.Theinitiativehadthreestrategicobjectives,namelyto:
Supportteachingandlearninginitiativeswhichintegrateeducationaltechnology;
Getcoreinstitutionalsystemstoworksothattheysupportteachingandlearningmoredirectly;and
Research and report on educational technology activity in African universities by means of a long term
project(seethePHEAETIhomepage).
To achieve these objectives, capacity development programmes were initiated across the participating
institutionsinordertosustaineffectiveutilizationoftechnologyforlearning.ICTsystemshadtobeinstalledor
strengthened, and a major component of these systems was the installation of a Learning Management
System,mainlyMoodle.Institutionalframeworkswerealsodevelopedorstrengthenedtodirectlysupportthe
utilization of technology for learning and teaching. Thus, existing institutional strategies or policies on
technologyintegrationhadtoberevisedtodirectlyaddressissuesoftechnologyforteachingandlearning.In
someinstances,thesedocumentshadtobedrawnupfromthescratchwithtechnicalsupportprovidedbythe
SouthAfricanInstituteforDistanceEducation(SAIDE).Thethirdobjectiveisongoingandincludesthepresent
study. The ETI created awareness within participating institutions of the need for interinstitutional research
on elearning. The initiative also actively encouragedcollaboration and the needto leverage on the platform
createdbythepartnershiptoachievesuchinterinstitutionalresearch.

From2010whenthePartBoftheinitiativetookoffintheseveninstitutionstothetimeofthisreportwhenit
has reached its closing phase, a lot has changed. elearning has been established or enhanced in all
participatinguniversities,policyframeworkshavebeenputinplace,orat leastinitiatedinall theinstitutions
and a Learning Management System (LMS) has been installed and is in use. Above all, technology has also
evolvedrapidly,presentingnewoptionsforengagingwithlearners,especiallythroughWeb.2.0technologies.
3. Researchquestions
According to Mason (2006) as cited in Selwyn (2009), social networking applications share many of the
desirablequalitiesofgoodofficialeducationtechnologiespermittingpeerfeedbackandmatchingthesocial
contexts of learning such as the school, university or local community (158). With these developments in
mind,thepaperwillconsiderthefollowingresearchquestions:
TowhatextentistheLMSbeingused?
Howisitbeingused:whatspecificallyisitusedfor?
To what extent do elearning policies/strategies support opportunities for teaching and learning with
technology?
Howaresocialmediaapplications/toolsusedtosupportlearning?
Whataretheoutcomesofusingvarioustechnologiesforlearningintheseinstitutions?
127

JeromeTerpaseDooga
4. Researchmethods
Aninterinstitutionalsurveywasdevelopedandalignedtotheresearchquestions.Theinstrumentcontained
itemsthathadaclosedformsuchaschecklistitems,itemswith5pointLikertscale,aswellasrankeditems.
Some openended questions were also posed to allow participants to report other opinions not captured
within the closed questions. The survey was subjected to a rigorous standardization process involving
specialists at the South African Institute for Distance Education (SAIDE) and the Centre for Educational
Technology (CET) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) to ensure that the items were explicit. Selective
sampling wasused for the survey which was distributedonline using the SurveyMonkeytool. Participants in
the ETI in the seven participating institutions who were using technology for teaching and learning were
encouraged to complete the survey and to forward the link to colleagues in their institutions who were also
knowntobeusingtechnologyforteaching.Participationwasvoluntary.Atotalof36respondentscompleted
the survey. These were made up of 24 males and 12 females. The average age of respondents was between
4150years(19).Ninewerebelow40yearsandtwobelow30.Onlyonerespondentwasabove60years.The
respondents were mostly academic staff: 21, lecturers, three teaching assistants, four technicians, one
librarian and seven in other categories. The academic qualifications of respondents ranged from a masters
degree (17), doctorate (11) and professorial cadre (4). This was a very good response, given the many
limitations around the data collection. For instance, responses were required within two weeks, which was
apparently too short to effectively obtain data online, especially from a busy audience. As a result of the
limited time frame, most of the respondents were actually people who were involved in the ETI project in
someway.Finally,thesurveyspecifiedthatresponseswererequestedfromthoseusingtheLMS.Thismeant
thatotherswhowereusingtechnologyforteaching,butwhowerenotusingtheLMS,wereexcluded.Thusthe
opinions here analysed are those of a minority of practitioners in these institutions and may not adequately
represent the picture in African higher education in general or even of all the PHEA ETI colleagues using
technology for teaching. They however provide an insight into the use of technology for learning in the ETI
supportedinstitutions.
5. Interpretingsurveyresults
5.1 TowhatextentistheLMSbeingused?Howisitbeingused:whatspecificallyisitusedfor?
WebeganbyaskingwhetheranLMSwasinstalled.Iftheanswerwasyes,wethenaskedwhatsoftwarewas
usedandthenthemorespecificquestionconcerninghowitwasbeingused,andwhichactivitiesitwasused
for.NearlyalltheinstitutionssaidtheyhadaLMSinstalled(34).TheLMSofchoicewasMoodle(33),followed
by Blackboard and Muele (both used in Uganda). Of the 36 respondents all but one made use of their
institutionalLMS.Adifferentsurveywouldneedtobeusedtoidentifylevelsofuse.

ThesurveyaskedhowtheLMSwasbeingusedandwhatspecificallyitwasusedfor.Figure1showsthatthe
LMS are mostly used to support class administration, such as providing access to course materials and
administeringassessments.

Figure1:RangeofactivitiesperformedontheLMS
128

JeromeTerpaseDooga
ThechartshowstheLMSusagewithintheeightcategoriesbysurveyrespondents.Themostfrequentuseof
the LMS isforcoursenotes(29 respondents) and in relation to lecturers involved inthe PHEAproject, seven
have developed and are using multimedia simulations. The level of use of multimediasimulations within this
group is an indication of a complex use of educational technology for learning in some of these African
institutionsandamajordeparturefromresultsobtainedinearlierstudies(seeUnwin2007,2010).Thefigures
showamuchhigheruseoftheLMSforcoursenotesandmightsuggestanemphasisoncoursemanagement
overstudentlearning.Coates,etal(2005)identifyoneofthekeydriverstotheeageradoptionoftheLMSby
institutions as the promise of enriched student learning, especially the view that online learning would
reinforce and enhance a diverse suite of constructivist pedagogies by allowing students to access a greater
rangeofresourcesandmaterials.InadditiononerespondentusestheLMStoprovideaplatformforstudents
to socialize. Even so, there might be a correlation between course type and the nature of resources and
activities engaged in. This may demonstrate that the course creators and instructors have created
educationallyresponsiveinterventions.
5.2 Towhatextentdoelearningpolicies/strategiessupportopportunitiesforteachingand
learningwithtechnology?
The seven institutions all have some form of policy in place, given that at least one respondent from each
institution indicated they were aware of an ICT or elearning policy. Interestingly different respondents from
thesameinstitutiondidnothaveconsensusaboutwhatpolicieswereinplace.Thetablebelowillustratesthe
range of responses for each institution. This suggests that while each institution has some form of policy,
active users of technology as represented by the survey respondents, are not necessarily aware of these
policiesorunderstandtheirpurpose.
Table1:Showingtheavailabilityofinstitutionalpolicyinthe7institutions
Institution ICTPolicy elearningPolicy elearningStrategy
CatholicUniversityofMozambique Yes Yes Yes
Yes Yes Yes KenyattaUniversity


Yes Yes Yes
Yes Yes
MakerereUniversity

Yes Yes
UniversityofDaresSalaam Yes Yes
UniversityofEducationWinneba Yes
Yes Yes Yes
Yes Yes
Yes Yes
Yes
Yes Yes
Yes
UniversityofIbadan


Yes Yes Yes
Yes Yes
Yes
Yes
UniversityofJos


Seemingly the active users of technology are not all aware of the institutional policies that regulate the
practice. For example, some respondents from the University of Jos indicated Yes for all three while others
fromthesameinstitutionwereunawareofany.Thisinterpretationissubstantiatedbyasubsequentquestion
which asked about the extent to which the institutional policy supports the use of social media such as
Facebook,forlearning.Figure2summarisestheseresponses.

129

JeromeTerpaseDooga

Figure2:Respondentsunderstandingofinstitutionalpolicy
Tenoutofthe34whorespondedtothisquestiondidnotknowwhetherornottheinstitutionalpolicyone
learningtotallyforbidstheuseofsocialnetwork(suchasFacebookandTwitter)onitsnetwork,representing
29.4%oftotalresponses.Similarly,12respondents,or35.3%ofrespondentsdidnotknowwhetherornotthe
institutional policy permits the use of social media only after work hours. When asked to indicate whether
there is no statement in the policy permitting or forbidding the use of social media on the institutional
network,13outofthe35respondents,or37.1%didnotknow.

However,the23respondentswhodisagreedthattheinstitutionalpolicyonelearningtotallyforbidstheuse
ofsocialnetwork(suchasFacebookandTwitter)onitsnetworkrepresenting67.7%indicatethatinstitutional
policieshavehelpedtofacilitate,ratherthanhindertheuseofelearninginmajorityoftheinstitutions.Atthe
UniversityofJos,thepolicyissilentaboutwhetherornotFacebookandsimilarapplicationsshouldbeusedon
the institutional network. However, the ICT Directorate arbitrarily decided to block its use along with Skype.
Commendably, these services were restored when key members of the directorate (who are also academic
instructors)wereaskedtorespondtothesurveyforthisstudy.
5.3 Howaresocialmediaapplications/toolsusedtosupportlearning?
Asked whether they used social media, 31 said they do. This correlates with their personal views of the
usefulnessofsocialmediaaslearningtools,since28respondentsaffirmedtheusefulnessofsocialmediafor
learning.Theperceptionofothersintheirdepartmentsregardingtheusefulnessofsocialmediaapplications
as learning tools was also seen by 24 respondents to be positive. Following is the description of specific
learningactivitiesrespondentsperformedusingsocialmedia.Thesehavebeengroupedinto7broadthemes.

Researchforprofessionalselfdevelopment
Searchingforprofessionalinformationtoboostmyknowledge
Researchcollaboration
130

JeromeTerpaseDooga
CourseAdministration
I manage three interactive learning pages on Facebook: English Language Clinic forum; Nigerian English
Phonologists;ScholarsofEnglishLinguistics
Providemoreinformationonatopic
Circulationofsummariesoflectures/highlights
Sharingofonlineresourceswithmyclass
DiscussiononFacebookandcollectionofartefactsusingDiigo
Sendcourseinformation
Assignments
assignments,coursework,quizzesetc
Studentsaregivenassignmentsonlineandmustsearchforinformationonline
InstructionintheuseofICT
IteachmystudentshowtouseLibraryandInformationplatforms
Learnerinteractionandcollaboration
Onlineclassdiscussions
Igetlearnerstocollaborateonline
Communicationandsocialising
Interactingwithmystudentsthroughmycustombuiltwebsite,Youtube,
interactionandcommunicationwithfriends
emails
Demonstration
Simulations
GeneralInterestLearning
VideoConferencingusingWebEx
Professionalexams
CISCO
Areanysocialnetworkapplicationsintegratedintothelearningmanagementsystemasaddontools?

Although 20 respondents answered this question in the affirmative as against 15 who said No, 22 also said
theyperformonlineactivitiesoutsidetheLMS.Evidently,thesocialnetworkapplicationsthatrespondentsuse
mostwerenotintegratedintotheLMS.ThechartinFigure3showsthatbyfarthemostusedsocialnetwork
applicationfromthedatawasFacebook,with26respondentswhichaccountsfor83.9%oftotalrespondents
in the survey and Google voice as the least used social media application. In contrast to the LMS usage,
teaching and learning is not the dominant function of social network applications by respondents. Here
academic networking and social integration have a stronger role as can be seen from the responses to the
surveyasshowninFigure4.
5.4 Whataretheoutcomesofusingvarioustechnologiesforlearningintheseinstitutions?
There were six strands designed in the survey to enquire about what has been achieved. Following are the
responsesforeachstrand:

Whathasbeentheresultofusingsocialsoftware?

Respondentscommentsrevolvedaroundsuchissuesasaccess,interactivity,flexibility,innovation,sociallinks,
learnerequalityorbalanceandjusthype.Theseeightthemesarehereisolated.
131

JeromeTerpaseDooga

Figure3:Patternofsocialmediaapplicationsusedbyrespondents

Figure4:Primaryfunctionsperformedwithsocialmediaapplications
Ubiquitous access: You get connected to other people around the world. It leads to increased access to
information.Itprovidesvaluableresourcematerialtoaugmentlearningmaterials.Interactive:Socialmedia
affordsquickresponsesfromstudents.Informal:Ithasincreasedmystudentsinterestinlearningmaking
learninglessformalandenjoyable.Itiswherethestudentsare,soitiseasiertofindthemintheirfavourite
terrain. Flexible: It enables personalized learning, affords easy communication and easy text creation by
learnersandinstructorsthusencouragingcollaborativelearning.Innovativepedagogyandbestpractice:One
respondentsaidithasimprovedmyteachingandlearningproductivelytoalargeextent....Helpinglearning
to develop effective structures for managing online information, including information personal to them,
without invading learners personal space has been rewarding. Social: It enables me to establish links with
friends I have lost touch with. Provides a level playing field for learners: It allows even introverts to
contributeindiscussions.Thismakesthemfeelengagedinconstructingknowledge.

Whataresomeunintended/unexpectedpositiveconsequencesofusingsocialmedia(i.e.itsseductionsand
pleasures)?
Keepspeopleconnected
132

JeromeTerpaseDooga
Itlinksschooltowidersocialinteraction,insteadofthealienatingoutlookofnormalacademicdiscourses.
Studentsextendlearningboundariesbeyondclassroomsandlessonhours.
Improvedteacherstudentrelationship
Itsprovidestronginterstudentactions(fosterspeertopeerrelationships)
Moreinteractionwithstudents
What aresome negative unintended/unexpectedconsequences of using social media (i.e. its problems and
anxieties?Inotherwords,what,inyourexperiencearethedisadvantagesofusingsocialmedia)?
FraudstersarealwayslookingformeanstohackmyYahooBox
Distractingandtimeconsuming
Studentsgettooattachedtotheinteractionalaspectofsocialmedia,graduallylosingthedisciplinetosit
downandreadbooksforlongperiodsoftime!
Technophobia
Addictionanddependencyontechnology
Giveexamplesofthelearningthatactuallytakesplacefromtheuseofsocialsoftwareapplications.
Multimedialearningmaterials:maximizelearningperceptionsandunderstandingofconcepts
Interactive/collaborative learning: My Cisco Students use Facebook to share network design and
troubleshootingprocesses;whereotherspostcommentsandrecommendationsforbestpractice.Ableto
holdonlineclassdiscussions.
Scaffolding:Clarificationofsimplestudyrelatedquestionsandsharingoflearningmaterials.
Whatwouldyousaysocialmediaismakingpossiblethatwasnotpossiblebefore?
Manytomanyinstantcollaboration
Flexibilityinlearning:Studentscanreflectontheirlearninganytimeandaskquestionsanytimeanywhere.
Agoodmediumtomanagelargeclasses.
Socialandacademicnetworking:socialandacademicnetworkingwithoutphysicalinteraction.Itisalsoa
platformtorelax.
6. Discussion
Significant progress has been made in instituting elearning in the seven universities in our study. It is more
difficult to provide evidence for institutionwide adoption. Hall and Khan (2002) observe that, unlike the
invention of a new technology, which often appears to occur as a single event or jump, the diffusion of that
technologyusuallyappearsasacontinuousandratherslowprocess(23).Inthethreeyearssincethestartof
theETIinterventionsitwouldbeunrealistictoexpecttherateofadoptiontohavemovedfrominnovatorsto
early majority. According to Rogers (1995, cited in Surry 1997) Individual Innovativeness theory, the
percentage of innovators is expected to be small. Rogers bell shaped distribution of Individual Innovators
proposes a 2.5% of adoption for innovators in the diffusion process. Even so, the response rate within the
group studied is very significant, showing a rather rapid rate of adoption. But in the 2007 report, Unwin had
observed:
The fact that elearning involves active engagement with various online tools for learning and
knowledge sharing is not widely understood. Among those who had regular access to the
Internet,itwaspredominantlyusedforcarryingoutbasicfunctionssuchassendingemailsand
surfing the web. The full potential of LMSs as an educational tool remains, in many cases,
unrealised(elearningAfricaNewsPortal).
Thisbegsthequestionofwhatisrealisticinelearningadoption.Unwin(2010)identifiesthelackoffundingto
create opportunities for staff training, inadequate bandwidth and the absence of institutional elearning
policies as principal factors that are constraning the spread of LMS usage in Africa. The present study shows
clearevidenceoffullutilizationofLMSasatoolforteachingandactiveengagementwithlearners.Ourstudy
also shows that these same institutions have adopted institutional policies which give teeth, as it were, to
more focused, systematic elearning practice. The value of such policies is well recognised. Schneckenberg
133

JeromeTerpaseDooga
(2006)recommendedthatasapreconditionforanysuccessfulelearningintegration...theuniversityhasto
developanICTstrategythatalignslearningwithitscorebusinessprocessesandsuitsitsspecificcontextand
conditions(204).

There remains a concern, as the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) (2008 cited in Bozalek 2012) argued, that
institutions and policy makers may be unable to keep pace with the rapid evolution and advancement in
technologiesandtheoptionstheypresentforelearning.Theresultwouldbethatadministrativepoliciesmay
slow down or halt adoption. If policies and strategies were outdated or overly restrictive, this then might be
seen in how institutional policies respond to emerging social media platforms for example. In our study, we
found that although elearning policies and strategies in the affected institutions are relatively new, some
policies had failed to reflect and account for the place of social media such as Facebook. In some of the
institutions,Facebook,Twitter,Skypeandsimilarapplicationscannotbeaccessedusinginstitutionalnetworks.
The study showed that, although 35 out of the 36 respondents use the LMS, 20 reported social media
applications being integrated into the LMS, which is 55%. However, a followup to this question reveals that
the social media incorporated into the LMS in these institutions isbasically Googledocs and does not include
Facebook.Even so, 22 respondents performed thegreater part of their online activities outside the LMS and
sometimesoutsidetheuniversitynetwork.Suchconstraintscouldlimitthepossibilitiesofonlineengagement
forlearning.Onerespondentgavethefollowingreasonfornotusingsocialmedia:Itisnotintegratedintothe
UniversityLMS.

Cultural barriers and individual perceptions continue to play a role in the use/nonuse of social media. One
respondentsaid:ThenudepicturesIseeonFacebookputsmeoff.Anotheradded:Iconsideritawasteof
time; it does not generate the kind of information I would require for teaching. Still another complained:
Sometimes I end up achieving very little in my researches when I am on Facebook as I end up chatting with
friendsthattakesmyattentionfromtheresearchesIwouldhavedoneonline.Thatexperiencemakesmekeep
awayfromthesocialnetworks.

Finally, this study highlights that, while respondents overwhelmingly (28 out of 36) felt that social network
applications are suitable for learning, their practice showed very little use of these applications for formal
learning tasks. They tended to be used more for professional and social networking as well as to provide
administrativesupportforlearningactivities,thustendingtocomplementtheuseoftheLMS.Theflexibilityin
adopting and supporting appropriate educational technology seems very important if institutional virtual
learningenvironmentsarenottostiflethepossibilitiesoflearning.
Acknowledgements
Theauthorwishestoacknowledgewithmuchgratitudethecontributionsofthefollowing:MonicaMawoyoof
the South African Institute for Distance Education (SAIDE) and Andrew Deacon of the Centre for Educational
Technology(CET)UniversityofCapeTown(UCT)forhelpingtofinetunethesurveyinstrument;MongeTlaka
(SAIDE) for setting up the survey on Survey Monkey and for generating all the charts; and to SAIDE for
providingtheplatformforthisresearch.
References
Alsabawy,A.Y.;CaterSteel,A.;andSoar,J.(2011)"MeasuringELearningSystemSuccess(ResearchInProgress)."PACIS
2011Proceedingsaisel.aisnet.org.
Bozalek,V.(2012)IntroductiontoInnovativePedagogicalPractices.AuthenticLearningandEmergingTechnologiesin
SouthAfricanHigherEducation.http://www.slideshare.net/vbozalek/authenticlearningandemergingtechnologies
final
Coates,H.,James,R.,andBaldwin,G.(2005)ACriticalExaminationoftheEffectsofLearningManagementSystemson
UniversityTeachingandLearning.TertiaryEducationandManagement11:1936,2005.
Hall,B.H.andKhan,B.(2002)AdoptionofNewTechnology.
elsa.berkeley.edu/~bhhall/papers/HallKhan03%20diffusion.pdf.
Hall,G.E.(2010)TechnologysAchillesHeel:AchievingHighQualityImplementation.JournalofResearchonTechnology
inEducation,Vol.42,No.3,pp.231253.
Hollow,D.andICWE(2009)elearninginAfrica:Challenges,prioritiesandfutureDirection.
www.gg.rhul.ac.uk/ict4d/workingpapers/Hollowelearning.pdf.
Kohn,T.andMaier,R.(2009)UsingSocialSoftwareinELearningInitiativesinDevelopingCountries.
www.uibk.ac.at/iwi/research/phdprojects/.../wm2009.pdf
134

JeromeTerpaseDooga
Luehmann,L.andTinelli,L.(2008)Teacherprofessionalidentitydevelopmentwithsocialnetworkingtechnologies:
learningreformthroughblogging.EducationalMediaInternationalVol.45,No.4,December2008,323333.
Madge,C.,Meek,J.,Wellens,J.,andHooley,T.(2009)Facebook,socialintegrationandinformallearningatuniversity:It
ismoreforsocialisingandtalkingtofriendsaboutworkthanforactuallydoingwork.Learning,Mediaand
TechnologyVol.34,No.2,June2009,141155.
McGill,T.,&Klobas,J.(2009)Atasktechnologyfitviewoflearningmanagementsystemimpact.Computers&Education,
52(2),496508.
PartnershipforHigherEducationinAfrica(PHEA).
http://www.oerafrica.org/phea/PHEAETIProjectHome/tabid/170/Default.aspx
Ray,J.,Kalvaitis,D.,Wheeler,C.andHirtle,J.(2011)Teachers'Attitudes,Behaviors,andOpinionsRelatedtoSocialMedia
Use.editlib.org...ELEARNVolume2011,Issue1.
Scheepers,M.D.andDelport,R.(2010)PerceptionsontheeducationalvalueofaLearningManagementSystemina
residentialSouthAfricanUniversity.ICL2010Proceedings10651073.
Schneckenberg,D.(2006)ECompetenceinEuropeanHigherEducationICTPolicyGoals,ChangeProcessesandResearch
PerspectivesinMacLabhrainn,I.,McDonaldLegg,
Selwyn,N.(2009)Faceworking:exploringstudentseducationrelateduseofFacebook.Learning,MediaandTechnology
Vol.34,No.2,June2009,157174.
Surry,D.W.(1997)DiffusionTheoryandInstructionalTechnology.InstructionalTechnologyOnline.
www.gsu.edu/~wwwitr/docs/diffusion/
Unwin,T.(2007)Africanlearningmanagementsystems:realitylagsbehindenthusiasm.www.elearning
africa.com/.../africanlearningmanage.
Unwin,T.,Williams,L.M.O.,Alwala,J.,Mutimucuio,I.,Eduardo,F.,&Muianga,X.(2010)DigitalLearningManagement
SystemsinAfrica:rhetoricandreality.www.unesco.org/fileadmin/.../uk%20784_sv_en_0809.pdf
Venter,P.,JansenvanRensburg,M.andDavis,A.(2012)DriversoflearningmanagementsystemuseinaSouthAfrican
openanddistancelearninginstitution.AustralasianJournalofEducationalTechnology2012,28(2),183198.

135