Students' Attitudes toward the Introduction of a Course Website

Article excerpt

The purpose of the current experiment was to determine how students at a university with no course management system (and very little use of technology in general) would respond to the introduction of a course website. Participants (67) in the current experiment were students enrolled in an Introductory Psychology course at a small, Midwestern university term 1 of 2005. During the first week of classes, participants were given instructions on how to use the course website and what tools were available via the course website. At the end of the term, participants were given a questionnaire to assess their general attitudes toward the course website and to asses how often they used certain tools of the course website. At the end of the questionnaire, participants were given an opportunity to provide suggestions or comments. Results indicated that general attitudes toward the course website were positive and participants regularly used certain tools of the course website. Final course grades and performance on specific exam questions to a sample of students not using a course website is also made.

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Recent research on technology in the classroom consistently notes the increased number of colleges and universities offering some form of on-line education (Warren & Holloman, 2005; Buerck, Malmstrom, & Peppers, 2003; Palloff & Pratt, 2001) and the increased availability of course management software to deliver this education (Heffner & Cohen, 2005; Young, 2002; Olsen, 2001). Course management systems allow professors to either supplement the traditional classroom experience or solely teach the course online. As Taylor (2004) cites, all of the features of course managements systems are to extensive to list in an article, but examples include: a mechanism allowing students to track their academic performance in the course; a place for the instructor to post announcements, assignments, and course material; and chat rooms to allow for interactions between students and students and students and professor. Due to this increase in the availability and usage of course management systems, research has been conducted to examine students' attitudes toward the implementation of these systems. In other words, what do the students really think about the use of course management systems in the classroom? (1)

Research addressing this question has discovered very similar findings despite the types of courses using the course management systems. For example, students in courses such as research methods (Couch, 1997), cognitive science (Goolkasian, Wallendael, & Gaultney, 2003), psychology as a profession (Warren & Holloman, 2005), and cognitive psychology (Yip, 2004) all report a positive attitude toward the use of course management systems. In addition to these research findings in a variety of psychology courses, students have responded to course management systems positively in other disciplines and applications as well like, dental school (Henley, 2003), as a means to teach English (Taylor & Gitsaki, 2003), general sciences classes (Liu, Papathanasiou, & Hao, 2001), engineering classes (Cao & Bengu, 2000), and social work classes (MacFadden, Maiter, & Dumbrill, 2002). These positive attitudes include: rating the website favorably, reporting that other instructors should use a course website, and evaluating the on-line information as helpful in learning major concepts and ideas. Additional positive evaluations of course management systems include: rating a course website as highly valuable, reporting daily use of the course website (Heffner & Cohen, 2005), reporting that course material placed on the web is a valuable supplement to traditional classroom lecture approaches, reporting that the web is a good avenue for collecting data and communicating with classmates (Bee & Usip, 1998), and reporting that these tools should be adopted in other classes (Althaus, 1997). …

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