Discussion chapter (External factors)

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As well, provision of technical support to faculty members is necessary to ensure successful transition from classroom instruction delivery to the online teaching (Alhomod & Shafi, 2013). Other external factors that affect the adoption and use of elearning technology, as predicted by the TAM model, include users’ experience in using information communication technologies and the opinions of users regarding the setup of the elearning process (Chokri, 2012).

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5.4.1 Training

This section analyses findings about the significance of training an important factor that supports and/or limits the adoption and use of LMS by female academic staff in KSA universities – in accordance with the third research question of the study. The analysis will evaluate how the provision of training for academic staff and students affects the adoption and use of LMS as observed in the research as well as in other studies that have been reported in literature. This is based on the point that was made in Section 4.2.10 that “A key external factor identified as an enabler in the literature review was training of LMS”.

A brief overview of the survey and interview findings is as follows. For the survey results, (closed-ended and open-ended questions), the data that were collected and analysed show that academics who had received training in areas such as web-based lectures (Blackboard Collaborate) or Blackboard features were more likely to use Blackboard in any number of courses. On the other hand, members of faculty who had not attended training were likely not to use Blackboard. Turning to the interview results, training was also identified one of the key determinants of whether the people who participated in the research use learning technology or not.

The key message that arises from the findings for both the survey and interview is that providing elearning training to both academic staff and students is critical if technologies such as Blackboard are to be adopted and used by members of faculty. This is supported by various points from the literature review. For instance, it was noted that successful delivery of elearning calls for significant investment by institutions in equipment and technologies, training of staff, and student monitoring to ensure that the technologies are used effectively (Albidewi & Tulb, 2014; Al-Shehri 2010). Further, it was noted that “after instructors get training, they can make use of LMS in their course easily” (Wichadee, 2015, p. 59). This can be related to a number of findings from the study. For example, from the survey results, the fact that academics who had received training were using Blackboard more implies that training made it easy to integrate the technology in their work. As well, for the interviews, interviewee I-1, who had some experience in using Blackboard, noted that their university offers training on e-learning to both students and staff. Thus, the provision of training can be regarded as one of the factors that promoted the use of LMS by members of faculty. On the other hand, lack of training or poor training hinders the adoption and hence use of LMS. This is shown by the fact that one interviewee who was not using Blackboard at the time of carrying out the current research did not like the training they were provided and noted during the interview as follows: “It [the training] was like course but, actually, it was not. We just learnt know how to switch on and switch off”. This means the training was not helpful as it did not delve into the actual use of LMS. Also, some of the responses to the open-ended questions as to why some participants were not using Blackboard were that there is “lack of training and support” and “I did not get adequate training”. These statements imply that lack of training in LMS use limits the usage of the technology, a point that is supported by various authors (Azlim et al., 2014; Fathema et al. 2015).

5.4.2 Incentives

This section provides an analysis of institutional and government incentives as one of the factors that affect the adoption as well as use of LMS by female academic staff in KSA universities. The focus of the analysis is on how provision or failure to provide incentives such as support for elearning affects how elearning technologies such as Blackboard are used in higher learning institutions. The analysis will be based on an evaluation of findings in both the current study and other studies that were conducted in the past and which were highlighted in the review of literature.

The main findings from the survey and interview are as follows. For the open-ended and closed-ended questions, it was found that incentives play an important role in encouraging members of faculty to use LMS. For instance, from the closed-ended questions, a significant number of the participants were of the view that institutional support and incentives were important for them to use Blackboard. On the hand, “lack of incentives” and lack of support were identified as some of the factors that make the participants not to use Blackboard in teaching. Similarly, in regard to the interviews, incentives offered by the university and encouraging of staff to use learning management systems were identified as some the factors that promote the use of LMS.

The key message from the findings is that incentives such as support provided by institutions of higher learning as well as the government provide an opportunity for enhanced adoption and use of learning management systems. On the other hand, the findings also suggest that failure to provide incentives can limit the use of elearning technologies. For instance, the positive responses given in regard to the closed-ended statement “I feel there are incentives from the university to use Blackboard effectively” show how incentives are vital in ensuring that faculty members use LMS. This is supported by the observation that institutional support to use LMS influences the adoption of LMS in higher learning institutions (Macharia & Nyakwende, 2010). Specifically, support from the university staff is important in building confidence among lecturers and students in their use of elearning tools (Al-Harbi, 2011). Along the same line, from the interview responses, one interviewee (I-4) noted that her institution had an elearning programme and that the courses were are tailored to meet the individual needs of different staff members. What this implies is that the university supports members of faculty to ensure that each member’s needs with respect to using technology are addressed. In contrast, institutions that do not provide incentives for using LMS are likely to have their faculty not using technology. For example, interviewee 1 noted that “The Blackboard is applied but no enough assistance”, which hampers the effective adoption of the technology (Blackboard). In such scenarios where such support is lacking, the transition from the traditional methods of teaching and learning to the utilisation of technology may not be straightforward for faculty, administrators and students (AlMegren & Yassin, 2013). Also, as noted from the survey responses, lack of incentives or support – revealed through statements such as “the lack of support and encouragement by management” and “there is no encouragement from the university to use Blackboard…” – are some of the factors that limit the use of technologies such as Blackboard. The same view is supported by various authors (Asiri et al., 2012; Fathema et al., 2015; Mtebe, 2015).

5.4.3 Technical support

In this section, an analysis of how technical support with regard to the use of elearning technology supports and/or limits the adoption and use of LMS by female academic staff in KSA universities is provided. The analysis looks at how the provision of technical support and assistance to members of faculty influences their use of Blackboard in their teaching work. The analysis is premised on the findings obtained from the current study as well as how the current findings relate with previous findings as noted in the literature review.

The findings in regard to technical support as an external factor that affects the adoption and usage of LMS by faculty members are as follows. From the survey findings, it was noted that 36.2% of the research participants identified technical support as a factor that influences the extent to which Blackboard can be used (section 4.3.4). On the other hand, based on the open-ended question responses in the survey, failure to provide technical support was identified as one of the reasons that limit the use of Blackboard, as shown through statements such as “technical support delayed” and “no technical support for me or my students” (section 4.4.2.2). Similarly, from the interview findings, software problems, technical malfunctions and lack of Internet support were identified as some of the factors that hinder the effective usage of Blackboard.

The main message from the findings relating to technical support is that provision of technical support to faculty members as well as students is critical to the adoption and usage of LMS. In the literature review section, it was noted that providing technical support to faculty members is essential to making sure that there is successful transition from the traditional classroom mode of teaching to online teaching (Alhomod & Shafi, 2013). In contrast, inadequate technical support hinders the adoption and use of technology (Azlim et al., 2014; Fathema et al. 2015; Maina & Nzuki, 2015). The fact that 36.2% of the participants in the current research identified technical support as a factor that influences the extent to which Blackboard can be used shows how important provision of technical support is to the effective adoption and use of elearning technology. Also, concerns such as “no technical support for me or my students” and “technical support delayed” imply that when there is no technical support or when such support is delayed, this hinders effective utilisation of technology since the situation can cause frustration among the users. As implied by Alhomod and Shafi (2013), it is important to offer the technical support that faculty members require so that the members can effectively move away from using the conventional methods of classroom teaching to the use of LMS. This means that when the necessary support is not provided, faculty members may not be able to use LMS well, and this has a negative impact on the adoption and usage of the technology.

5.4.4 Experience in using LMS

In regard to faculty members’ experience, the most important academic-related factor that supports and/or limits the adoption and use of LMS by female academic staff is analysed in this section. Prior experience or expertise in the use of information communication technologies is identified as the most important experience-related factor affecting the adoption and use of LMS. Analysis of this factor will be done by basing on the findings that were obtained in the current study and other studies that were referred to in the review of literature.

The findings about previous experience or expertise in the use of information communication technology as a factor that supports or limits the use of Blackboard are as follows. In regard to the survey, it was found that the use of Blackboard was higher if the participants had more years of experience in using the technology (section 4.2.5). As well, having skills in the use of technology was identified in the open-ended responses as one of the factors that promote the use of LMS. However, “lack of experience” and “not enough knowledge” about the use of Blackboard were cited as some of the reasons that limit the use of the technology. As for the interview results, lack of LMS knowledge and experience were noted as factors that hinder the use of the technology.

The key message that emerges from the findings about experience or expertise and how it affects LMS usage is that faculty members with prior experience or expertise in using Blackboard were more likely use the technology than those who did not have previous experience. In the review of literature review, it was noted that in accordance with the TAM model, one of the factors that affect the adoption as well as use of elearning technology is the user’s experience in the utilisation of information communication technologies (Chokri, 2012). It was also noted that prior experience in technology usage is a predictor of effective elearning acceptance by tutors and students (O’Neill et al., 2004). Therefore, based on the ideas from Chokri (2012) and O’Neill et al. (2004), it can be argued that faculty members with prior experience in Internet use, use of the Internet for learning, use of computers for learning, or those who possess computer-related capabilities such as use of email are better placed to use LMS than those who do not have prior exposure to any of the aforementioned capabilities. It is for this reason that participants who gave responses such as “lack of experience” and “not enough knowledge” regarding Blackboard use were unlikely or less likely to use the technology. Similarly, the participants who were interviewed and gave responses such as “I do not have any idea about it [Blackboard]”are unlikely or less likely to use LMS.