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Students' perceptions of the value of the elements of an online learning environment : looking back in moving forward
journal contributionposted on 2010-06-01, 00:00 authored by Stuart Palmer, Dale Holt
In 2003, Deakin University implemented a centralised learning management system (LMS) under the banner of Deakin Studies Online (DSO), as well as implementing policies requiring all its units of study to have at least a basic online presence from 2004. Given the scope of the university's commitment to online education, it was considered essential to evaluate the effectiveness of this investment. Based on more than 5400 responses obtained from students in 2004 and 2005 as part of the DSO evaluation survey, the analysis presented here identifies those elements of the online learning environment (OLE) that are most used and valued by students, those elements of the OLE that students most want to see improved, and, those factors that most contribute to students' perceptions that use of the OLE enhanced their learning experience. The most used and valued elements were core LMS functions, including accessing unit information, accessing lecture/tute/lab notes, interacting with unit learning resources, reading online discussions, contacting lecturers/tutors and submitting assignments online. The OLE elements identified as most needing attention were receiving feedback on assignments; viewing my marks; and reviewing unit progress. Students felt that using DSO enhanced their learning experience when they were adequately supported by unit teachers and technical support services; when they were able to find and use unit information; and when they were able to read the online contributions of other unit members. The retrospective analysis of data collected in the period 2004-2005 has been shaped by a forward-looking agenda. The array of elements available within, and in association with, traditional LMSs which has emerged since that time raises the future challenge of how to maximise and evidence educational value through the optimal combination of elements from the portfolio of e-learning technologies increasingly available to educators.