course management system (CMS) effectiveness

Campus Technology News Update reports on Margaret C. Lohman’s study of the “Effects of Information Distributions Strategies on Student Performance and Satisfaction in a Web-Based Course Management System” in the International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. The study found “no significant differences” between distributing information via a CMS or in class in “total points earned in the course or on student reactions toward the instructional experience.” It did show, however, that in-class distribution “resulted in significantly higher student performance on an end-of-semester technical knowledge test.” A ha! Dump that expensive Blackboard system!

Whoaaa . . . let’s not throw* the baby out with the bathwater. You know there’s always a user error somewhere. The article looks at the effect of having instructional materials in advance instead of presented in a timely fashion, and introduced when needed. Apparently students can become both bored and confused when all materials are available from the first class day. So, there needs to be a pedagogical approach to using any CMS for it to be most effective–the filing cabinet approach, as might be expected, is passive instead of active.

The article suggests that the advantage of in-class distribution is in the instructor’s introduction, presentation, and discussion of the “relevance of the material to the learning task.” One solution, then, for distributing online materials, is for instructors to integrate those same elements in class discussions, previewing online material and discussing its relevance, instead of expecting a schedule of assignments and access to substitute. The study did not follow instructors who previewed upcoming material distributed through the CMS, followed by a reinforcing discussion of the materials after they had been read, which seems like a better alternative to both the processes followed in this study. You can still have the convenience of online distribution of materials and keep the pedagogically-sound practices of introduction and reinforcement. Otherwise, why are we in the classroom at all?

There is much more of interest in the article about more advanced uses of CMSs, using Bonk’s 10 levels of web integration. Download the article here:

*spelling finally corrected on 4/21/07


Categories: technology

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