The potential of a learning management system to enhance self–directed learning
The use of Learning Management Systems (LMSs) in higher education institutions is not a new tendency. Although this is an innovative way of implementing e-learning in the educational process, there are a few problems concerning these systems. Educators tend to apply traditional classroom ideas and pedagogy in computer-supported e-learning environments, assuming that because these environments allow the interaction that we see in the classroom, traditional pedagogy can be used. Although most of the pedagogical principles that apply to the traditional classroom-delivery method also apply to e-learning, the e-environment supports such interactions in a different manner. Traditional pedagogical principles should be adapted to accommodate the e-learning environment and should form the very basis for inclusion of features in LMSs. These principles should be integrated into the LMS where every feature included is accompanied by explicit guidelines on how to use the feature in such a way that it will effect pedagogically sound instruction. The aim of this study is to determine how an LMS could be used in order to enhance self-directed learning. In order to reach this aim a brief history of SDL was given and a number of SDL models were discussed. These models were analyzed in order to compile a list of guidelines to foster SDL. The first set of guidelines didn’t focus on any specific learning environment and it was necessary to refine these guidelines for an online environment. To be able to refine the guidelines for an online environment, LMSs in general were discussed and a few models for SDL in an online environment were reviewed. The SDL guidelines were further refined for implementation in eFundiTM. eFundiTM is the LMS used at the North-West University, Potchefstroom campus, South Africa. The nature of the AGLE 121 module (a literacy module for all first year students) and the specific functionalities of eFundiTM were discussed and taken in consideration when the final set of guidelines was compiled. The researcher did an empirical study to gather valid and reliable data. A mixed methods inquiry approach was used to obtain reliable evidence. The population consisted of all the students that were enrolled for the AGLE modules over 2 years. These students were divided into 2 groups, the AGLE 121 in 2010 (237 students) and the AGLE 121 (287 students) in 2011. The questionnaire that was used for the quantitative research in this study was based on the Fisher, King and Taque (2001) SDL readiness scale for nursing education. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven participants from each group in order get a better understanding of the data collected from the quantitative research, and to elaborate further on the students’ development of SDL. Findings indicated that the students from the second year of the study did not necessarily improve their SDL-skills. Most of the results from the quantitative data showed small practical significant differences. However, the qualitative data indicated that the SDL skills of the students improved in two of the three factors after they used the newly developed eFundiTM site, in the second year of the study and therefore the researcher is of opinion that the intervention had a positive impact on the students’ SDL skills.
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