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E-learning in Modern Education Dissertation


Introduction

Scholars have long tried to understand how teachers perceive E-learning and what factors influence their attitudes. This question has attracted so much attention because information technologies can greatly improve the work of educators. Unfortunately, some of them fail to make full use of them.

Overall, E-learning is relatively new concept which emerged approximately fifteen years ago and since that time it has become a subject of thorough research. When discussing such concept as attitude, one should speak about positive, negative, or neutral points of view about a certain phenomenon.

The existing studies indicate that perceptions of E-learning are dependent on the following factors:

  1. technical competence;
  2. awareness about the benefits of E-learning;
  3. the educational background of a teacher (Al-Fadhli, 2009; Paravantis, 2010).

Furthermore, some researchers argue that age or gender can shape a teacher’s perceptions about E-learning (Wong & Hanafi, 2007).

Overall, understanding of these factors can greatly help the administrators of educational institutions when they will try to implement new models based on information technologies. Apart from that, knowledge of these variables can help us better identify the challenges faced educators.

Factors affecting attitudes toward E-learning

Gender differences

Gender is sometimes viewed as the independent variable which can impact an instructor’s attitude to E-learning. In their study Su Luan Wong and Atan Hanafi have ascertained that gender does not influence a person’s beliefs about digital learning when both males and females have “equivalent level of IT experience” (2007, p 165).

However, their findings do suggest that female teachers exhibit higher levels of confidence in their abilities to use computers after the training. Yet, it should be pointed out that this argument is not supported by other researchers, for instance, the research carried out by Shashaani (1994) indicates that female teachers have a lower level confidence in their skills.

Finally, the study by Bulent Cavas et al (2009) shows that there is statistically significant relationship between the gender of an educator and his/her views about the use of computer in the classroom. We can also refer to the study, carried out by Taghreed Abdulaziz Almuqayteeb (2009); this researcher argues that female teachers have “positive attitudes” toward the use of computers in the classroom (2009, p 2).

Nonetheless, this positive attitude extends only several applications like “e-mail, word processors, and the Internet” (Almuqayteeb, 2009, p 2). Moreover, Almuqayteeb points out that gender differences do not fully explain faculty’s perceptions of E-learning; he believes that special attention should be paid to years of experiences with computer and overall computer skills (Almuqayteeb, 2009).

Hence, it is possible for us to argue that to some extent, the existing academic sources are conflicting. In part, this discrepancy can be explained by the fact that these studies were conducted in different settings as well as in different cultures.

Moreover, it is quite probable that their educational background and the level of technical competence were different. Thus, we can argue that the exact impacts of gender on attitudes have yet to be measured accurately.

Differences in accessing Internet

Ability to access Internet is also regarded as factor which influences a person’s attitude toward E-learning. For instance in his study, Al-Mothana Gasaymeh postulates that those teachers, who have “high levels of access to this innovation”, are more likely to display positive attitude toward computer-aided education (2009, p 127).

According to Al-Mothana Gasaymeh, such educators are more likely to see the benefits of computer-aided learning (2009). These educators are more willing to adopt innovative approaches.

Judging from these results, one can argue that the resources available at educational institutions are closely related with teacher’s perception of information technologies and their intention to use them. Thus, this discussion should not be limited only to Internet access since it is also important to speak about the overall availability IT resources to them.

Technology experiences as a factor that shapes a person’s attitude toward E-learning

The perceptions about computer-aided education are closely related with technology experiences of a teacher. In this case, such concept as technology experience denotes the number of years during which an educator utilizes computer in the classroom or teaches online courses (Alexander et al, 2009).

In order to prove this argument, we need to refer to the study by carried out by a group of scholars under the guidance of Melody Alexander. These researchers say that “In the six year span studied, both students and faculty satisfaction levels with their online learning experiences have risen for three of the satisfaction items measured” (Alexander et al, 2009, p 16).

This argument is supported by other scholars, in particular by Ruth Cook et al (2009). Their survey has indicated that those teachers, lacking experience in E-learning and proper training, are more likely to make negative comments about this educational model (Ruth Cook et al, 2009).

The opinions of this researchers are quite convincing but they do not explain fully explain why a person can display a negative attitude toward E-learning from the very outset.

Furthermore, one should take into account that a teacher’s experience in E-learning much depends upon the type of educational institutions, its technological resources, and overall policies, pursued by the administration of a college, school or a university.

The impact of educational level on the person’s attitude toward E-learning

One of the most important factors that shape a person’s attitude toward E-learning is the educational level and background. There are several studies which partly confirm this hypothesis. In this case, one should pay attention to several criteria: academic degree and the peculiarities of training which a person during his/her education.

First, it has been demonstrated that those teachers who were trained to use information technologies during their education, feel more positive and confident about E-learning (Wilson, 2001; Cavas et al, 2009). These people regard computers as an inseparable part of learning and teaching process.

One should take it into consideration E-learning is a distinct part of instructional design, and a person has to possess numerous skills in order to apply computers or Web-based technologies in the classroom. Those people, who do not have these skills, tend to have a negative attitude towards this educational approach.

Nevertheless, we need to mention that researches have found no significant relationship between academic degree of a teacher and his/her attitude toward E-learning. For instance, in his research article Dr. Abdulhameed Kayode Agboola (2010) believes that people with a Master’s or doctoral degrees display relatively the same attitude toward E-learning.

Similar opinion is expressed by Abu Qudais, Adhaileh and Al-Omari (2010) who do not attribute attitudinal differences to academic degree. Thus, we can assume that more attention should be paid to the type of training which a person received, rather to his/her academic degree.

The influence of major and department on a teacher’s attitudes toward E-learning

Furthermore, a teacher’s major is also known to be a very important factor. For instance, the educators, majoring in science or mathematics, have to rely on computers and software applications (Cavas et al, 2009; Altun, 2007). These technologies can greatly facilitate and improve their work, and it is quite understandable that they assume a positive attitude to E-learning.

The research carried out by Bulent Cavas et al shows that “natural science teachers” are willing to apply information technology during classes as they enable them to better explain the material to the students (Cavas et al, 2009, p 29). In contrast, educators, specializing in literature or history, may not use these technologies as often and they do not view E-learning as an essential part of educational process.

Still, we should mention the relationship between a teacher’ major and his/her attitude toward the use of information technologies, and this hypothesis still needs to be tested.

The influence of major can be explained by the fact that the necessity to use computers in the classroom is not the same among teachers of different majors and different departments. Still, the exact impact of such variables as major or department still need to measured. In particular, it is necessary to compare their impact with that one of other variables.

Age and attitudes toward E-learning

It is believed that such variable as age can also shape an educators perceptions about E-learning. In particular, the study, conducted by Salah Al-Fadhli (2009) shows that teachers, whose age was “45 or above”, were less willing to rely on e-learning models (p 226). In contrast, young teachers were more enthusiastic about the use of information technologies.

In part, these findings confirm the popular belief according to which older people are less inclined to adjust themselves to technological changes. Yet, one should bear in mind that other scholars do not agree with this point of view. For example, the study done by Monika Mital and Renn Luthra (2006) has demonstrated that there is no significant relation between age and attitude toward E-learning (p 85).

These scholars believe technical competence plays the most important role and say the role of age requires further research. This variable is relevant to our discussion since there is a great number of educators who graduated more then 20 years ago, and at that time computer was not regarded as an educational tool.

At this point, we can refer to the study by Bulent Cavas et al (2009) who claim that Turkish science teachers, who were exposed to E-learning during their education, view it as a more favorable phenomenon. The findings of these studies can hardly be disputed but one can argue that interpretation of statistical data could have been different.

The thing is that Salah Al-Fadhli and Bulent Cavas believe that age is an important independent variable because younger teachers are more willing to use technologies in the class. However, this behavior can be connected not with age as a psychological characteristic but with technical competence or exposure to E-learning.

Teaching experiences and perceptions about E-learning

Apart from that, it is necessary to speak about such variable as prior experience in the use of Internet and knowledge about E-learning and blended learning. First of all, researchers argue that faculty proficiency instructional technology is closely related with their views about different forms of E-leading such as distance education (Wilson, 2001, p 70).

In their study, Shu-Sheng Liaw et al hypothesize that instructor’s attitude to E-learning is strongly dependent on the “perceived usefulness” of this model (Liaw et al, 2007, p 1070). In other words, this means that many teachers may not be fully aware about the benefits of E-learning and they tend to underestimate its significance.

The findings of other researchers partially confirm this hypothesis (Vankatesh & Davis, 1999). Furthermore, the instructor’s perceptions about E-learning can be influenced by such factor as self-esteem (Liaw et al, 2007).

It has been ascertained that people with lower levels of self-esteem are less inclined to use instructional models, based on information technologies. Hence, we can say that a person’s intention to apply computerized models of education much depend on how he/she perceives their utility.

It should be noted that the mode of E-learning can also act as a very important factor. For instance, the study by Salah Al-Fadhli (2009) indicates that the majority of faculty members favors the so-called blended mode that is combines conventional teaching models with those which rely on information technologies. In part, this suggests organizational experience can impact teacher’s perceptions.

In other words, one has to know to what extent IT solutions are utilized in school in order to determine what its staff thinks about E-learning. Another argument that we can derive the study by Salah Al-Fadhli is that competency in instructional design is strongly connected with his/her intention to combine E-learning with conventional educational models.

In the previous sections of this paper, we have discussed those variables which are mostly connected with an individual. However, one should not forget organizational environment can also affect a teacher’s attitude as well as experiences of E-learning.

For example, the study, carried out by Robert Newton (2003, p 420) suggests that a teacher can be reluctant to employ information technologies in the classroom, if he/she lacks the support of school or college administration.

When speaking about organizational factors, we need to mention such variables as availability of training related to the use of technology, the incentives, provided by the administration, and understanding of the goals (Newton, 2003; Steel & Hudson, 2001). Thus, we can argue that motivation to use IT solutions during classes can be related teachers’ perceptions of these educational methods.

Robert Newton (2003) believes that E-based education requires a great number of skills, for example, video editing or construction of simulations (p 415). Many teachers do not possess such skills, and administration of educational institutions often leaves them to their own devices (Gilmore, 2002; Cardwell-Hampton, 2009). Certainly such a situation is not very widespread but no one can deny that it exists.

This is one of the reasons why many of them form negative attitudes about E-learning. On the whole, these obstacles can significantly hinder the process of innovation. According to Gilmore, the institution, which provide training to faculty members, are able to achieve more intensive and more effective use of IT applications in the classroom (Gilmore, 2002).

More importantly, they tend to display more favorable attitude toward E-learning in general. Therefore, it would be an exaggeration to say that perceptions and experiences of computer-aided education are dependent on the level of organizational support.

These articles eloquently show that attitudes toward E-learning are closely related toward the policies of an organization that should assist teachers.

Without this assistance, their perceptions of computer-aided learning can be negative or at least very skeptical, to say the list. Of course, they will try to use IT applications in the class-room and it is quite likely that they will not yield the expected results and even make a person more resistant toward E-learning.

Conclusion

The analysis of the academic sources shows that at the given moment there is no definitive explanation of those factors which affect teachers’ attitude toward E-learning. The existing studies can certainly throw light on many of these variables. Among them one can single out educational background, technical proficiency, awareness about the benefits of information technologies, organizational support.

Judging from the available academic sources, such variables as age and gender may have a certain effect on educators’ attitudes. The existing findings are to some extent conflicting. The literature review has indicated the most common obstacles for the implementation of information technologies are lack of support from the administration, inability of teachers to understand the advantages of these methods.

As it has been mentioned previously, the adopting of computer-aided educational models is hardly possible without elaborate technical and methodological skills. Many teachers are not fully proficient in these things because they were trained in a different way.

In these cases, the assistance of administration becomes pivotal. In part, these academic sources confirm the initial hypothesis advanced at the very beginning but it is necessary to conduct an empirical research in order to test it properly.

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