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Students' Perceptions of Blackboard's Impact on Learning

University of Southern Indiana Students

Blackboard Utilization Study

The University of Southern Indiana’s Blackboard system utilization studies show that students who use the system perceive that Blackboard has a positive impact on their learning outcomes. The results of the latest study conducted in spring 2004 are published at http://instructech.usi.edu/2004StudentSurveyResults.htm. Nearly eleven hundred students completed questionnaires as part of the annual campus-wide technology survey.

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. The student questionnaire was placed online in March 2004 and could be accessed by links on the main campus website, the MYUSI student portal, and the campus Blackboard website. As an incentive to increase student participation, students received one entry each in a random drawing for a $50 gift card.

Profile of Respondents

One thousand and ninety one students completed the online student questionnaire.: nearly 30% were freshmen; 25% were sophomores; 22% were juniors, and the remaining were senior, graduate, and continuing education students. 75% of the student respondents were women; and 82% of student respondents were traditional college age between 18 and 24.

The students majored in liberal arts (22%), business (20%), nursing and health (19%), education and human services (17%), science and engineering (8%), graduate studies (6%), and the remainder were general studies, undeclared, or continuing education students. Over half of the students (55%) reported that they were “advanced” computer users comfortable using a wide array of software applications and the Internet; 44% classified themselves as “intermediate” computer users; and less than 1% reported they were beginners.

Frequency of Blackboard Use

Ninety-three percent of the students who responded to the questionnaire used Blackboard and preferred to do their Blackboard-related coursework on weekdays rather than weekends. The most frequent times for using Blackboard were Monday through Friday evenings 4:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (39%), followed by M-F 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (31%) and M-F 9:00p.m. to 8:00 a.m. (19%). Forty-three percent of students accessed their Blackboard courses five or more times per week while 36% used Blackboard between two and four times per week.

Usefulness of Blackboard Tools

Students were asked to rate the usefulness of a variety of possible learning materials one might access on Blackboard. The top ten most useful materials reported in order of usefulness were: grades, study guides, announcements, final review notes, syllabus, detailed lecture notes, assignments, outlines for reading assignments, sample exams, and definitions of key course concepts or key terms. Students rated digital drop box and group discussion boards as the top two most useful Blackboard tools. On the low end, the virtual chat room and homepages were the two least useful tools according to students. Among the communication tools most useful to students were sending and receiving email with their instructors and classmates.

Perceived Impact on Learning

Students reported that the availability of course materials in Blackboard supported their learning. They were satisfied with their Blackboard course sites and believed that their academic performance could be improved by using Blackboard. Students were asked to rate these items on a scale of 1 to 5 with the lower scores indicating item agreement. The table below details student responses for these items.

Students’ Perceptions of Blackboard’s Impact on 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 learning?

35%

28%

26%

8%

3%

2.17

Please indicate how satisfied you are overall with the online components of your Blackboard courses.

31%

38%

21%

6%

3%

2.11

To what extent do you feel your academic performance could be improved by using Blackboard?

22%

30%

33%

9%

6%

2.48

 

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.

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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