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Instructors Perceptions of Blackboard Impact on Teaching and Learning

University of Southern Indiana Blackboard Utilization Survey

The University of Southern Indiana’s Blackboard system utilization studies show that instructors who use the system perceive that Blackboard has a positive impact on student learning outcomes. The results of the latest study conducted in spring 2004 are published at http://instructech.usi.edu/2004FacultyStaffSurveyResults.htm.

250 faculty and staff members completed questionnaires as part of the annual campus-wide technology survey. The majority of instructors who used Blackboard reported that students’ academic performance could be improved by using Blackboard.

Campus Profile

USI serves 10,000 students at its sprawling, suburban Evansville campus located in the southwestern corner of Indiana. It offers baccalaureate and masters degrees in five schools: liberal arts, nursing and health professions, science and engineering, business, and education and human services. The university employs 278 full-time and 292 part-time instructors. In 1998, a small group of USI faculty members were among the first in Indiana to pilot the use of Blackboard’s predecessor, CourseInfo, primarily for use in distance education. Since fall 2003 all courses at USI have optional Blackboard course sites to supplement and extend classroom instruction; and Blackboard provides the learning environment for a thriving community of distance students pursuing degrees primarily in nursing and health programs.

Questionnaire Development

A survey project group of faculty and administrative personnel developed two “Campus-wide Technology” questionnaires for online deployment to students, faculty, and staff. Project group members included representatives from academic affairs, instructional technology services, distance education, library services, and computing and telecommunication services. All full-time university employees and part-time instructors were invited by email to complete a similar online questionnaire in April 2004. All respondents were invited to provide feedback on a variety of instructional technologies including Blackboard.

Profile of Respondents

Nearly half of the faculty and staff respondents reported that they had taught one or more courses in the 2003-04 academic year. Of the 109 active instructors who responded, 71 (65%) said they had used Blackboard for their courses. Nearly one-third (31%) of those instructors using Blackboard were from the nursing and health professions school where all distance education programs are offered, 24% were from liberal arts, 21% from science and engineering, 12% from education and human services, 7% from business, and the remainder from other academic affairs areas. Sixty-one percent of the instructors were female; and approximately half of instructors using Blackboard were age 50 or older. 69%of the instructors who responded did not teach any distance learning courses with Blackboard during the 2003-2004 academic year.

Frequency of Blackboard Use

The majority of instructors (73%) reported that they had four or more Blackboard course sites. Most instructors (83%) reported that they were likely to use Blackboard during normal university business hours on weekdays between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.; however nearly half (47%) also used it on weeknights after 4:30 p.m. Weekends were also noted for frequent use by instructors with 35% reporting usage on Saturday or Sunday prior to 4:30 p.m.; and 38% said they accessed their Blackboard courses on weekend evenings. Late nights and early mornings Monday through Sunday 9:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. were reported by 14% of instructors. Two-thirds of the instructors reported they accessed their Blackboard course sites five or more times per week.

Usefulness of Blackboard Tools

Instructors also rated the usefulness of learning materials they had placed on Blackboard. The top ten in order were: assignments, syllabus, grades, announcements, detailed lecture notes, study guides, outlines for reading assignments, final review notes, links to more resources on the Internet, and durable links to full-text journal articles in the library’s electronic databases. Instructors agreed with students and rated the discussion board and digital drop box as the top two useful tools; but considered the calendar and personal information tools the least useful. Instructors also agreed with students that the Blackboard email function was the most useful communication tool.

Perceived Impact on Learning

Instructors agreed that students’ academic performance could be improved by using Blackboard. Most were very satisfied with their Blackboard course sites and felt placing materials on Blackboard assisted their teaching. Regardless of whether they used Blackboard for distance learning courses or as an enhancement and extension of their on-campus classes, the instructors believed their Blackboard course sites assisted and/or furthered student learning. The table below details responses from instructors.


Instructors’ Perceptions of Blackboard’s Impact on Teaching and Learning

 

Very Much =1

2

Somewhat =3

4

Not at all=5

Response Average

To what degree has the availability of course materials on Blackboard supported your teaching?

58%

25%

11%

1%

4%

1.69

Please indicate how satisfied you are with your Blackboard course site(s) during the 2003-2004 academic year.

38%

38%

16%

6%

3%

1.99

To what extent do you feel your students’ academic performance could be improved by their use of Blackboard?

32%

25%

33%

4%

6%

2.28

To what degree do you believe your Blackboard site(s) assisted and/or furthered student learning?

36%

26%

26%

4%

7%

2.20

Study Outcomes

The 2004 USI campus-wide technology survey provided valuable feedback that may be used for a variety of technology-related decisions and provides a framework for assessing the value of online instruction as it relates to student learning. Feedback identifies what type of materials placed online are perceived by students to be most useful and what tools students and instructors find most helpful. This knowledge can be integrated into orientation sessions for new Blackboard users and applied to instructional design and future online course development. The results of the study also pinpoint what system functions are not being utilized and where advanced training sessions for instructors and students may be advantageous. Feedback provides information about when students are instructors are using the system which can be helpful in scheduling help desk support personnel and system maintenance.

Both students and instructors believe using the system can improve student academic performance, and this documented perception is important. Whether or not Blackboard usage actually does improve academic performance cannot be stated based on the results of this study. However, one might conclude that if students think it will help their grades, this perception may reinforce and increase their use of the system to review course materials or communicate with their instructors or classmates about what they are learning. Increased course-related activities whether they occur in class, by reading printed homework notes, or accessing Blackboard courses online may, indeed, result in improved learning outcomes.

 

Author: Karen H. Bonnell

05 July 2004

VLE: Blackboard

 


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