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Factors influencing the adoption of Learning Management Systems in the Kingdome of Saudi Arabian Universities by Female Academic Staff Essay Example

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Factors influencing the adoption of Learning Management Systems in the Kingdome of Saudi Arabian Universities by Female Academic Staff

Research Proposal for Confirmation of Candidature (PhD)

1. Research Context

Universities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), like their counterparts elsewhere in the world, are increasingly considering electronic learning (e-learning) as a viable teaching, learning and assessment tool. Although it is a contested term, e-learning is seen as the computer and internet-based activities that directly or indirectly facilitate learning and teaching both on campus and at a distance (Bates, 2007, p. 52). Blended learning where “portions of learning activities have been moved online, and time traditionally spent in the classroom is reduced but not eliminated” (Alebaikan, 2010, p. 8) is also becoming more common place in KSA. One of the ways in which e-learning and blended learning is occurring is via learning management systems (LMS). According to Rogers, Berg, Boettcher, Howard, Justice and Schenk (2005), the term LMS takes into account just any use of web technology to plan, organise, execute, and control the various aspects of the learning process. Currently, there is widespread use of LM like Moodle, WebCT and Blackboard (Bb) (Chikh & Berkani, 2010; Vrazalic, MacGregor & Behl, 2009), which are important element of in e-learning globally. In KSA, Blackboard is the most common LMS (Zouhair, 2010) and is therefore the LMS that this thesis will investigate.

Saudi Arabia has a gender separation policy that does not permit female students to be combined with their male counterparts in the same class. The separation policy is implemented not only in high education but in all levels of learning. Consequently, female academic staff members teach in female universities and colleges, while their male counterparts concentrate on teaching the male-dedicated institutions of higher learning. In addition, since male and female students are not allowed to be present in the same class, there have been attempts to make use of technologies to help deal with the shortage of female staff to teach female learners. For instance, videoconferencing is used to televise lectures delivered by male lecturers in a male-only class to female students sitting in a different room. This allows female students to get content similar to that delivered to their male counterparts while they are seated in different rooms. The videoconferencing approach also allows instruction without lecturer and the learners ever meeting face-to-face (Baki, 2004). This approach however implies that female academic staff have fewer opportunities to use learning technologies to deliver instruction to their students because they are fewer in number and because there are fewer opportunities for them to use such technologies (Mirza, 2008).

1.1 Rationale

Female academic staff in universities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) are not only fewer in numbers than their male counterparts, but according to the research, they are not widely adopting technology for teaching and learning (e-learning) purposes at the same rate as the male academic staff (Asiri, Mahmud, Bakar & Ayub, 2012). This raises concerns as there is currently insufficient female academic staff to teach the number of female students interested in pursuing higher education courses. This is compounded by the practice of gender specific universities where lack of access to e-learning may place female students at a disadvantage in terms of access to higher education.

This research will be underpinned by the theoretical concept of Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) (Davies, 1986, 1989; Davies et al., 1989 – cited by Ku, 2009, p. 39). Using this model this research seeks to investigate the factors influencing the adoption of Learning Management Systems (LMS) among the female academic staff in KSA. This research intends to investigate more thoroughly the key finding in Al-Balawi‘s (2007) research that found that 71.4% of male academic staff at Saudi Arabian universities utilised web-based learning compared to only 28.6% of female university staff. This thesis will investigate the gender divide in technology use further, by examining female academic staff utilisation of LMS. In particular, this research will examine the factors that influence the adoption (or lack of adoption) of LMS by female academic staff in KSA universities. This thesis will examine the ways in which internal and external variables related to the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) have influenced technology adoption of female academic staff. The research will seek to understand:

  • the factors that influence female academic staff’s use of LMS in their work

  • the extent to which female staff actually use LMS

  • the possible reasons for the disparity between the number of male and female academic staff LMS in Saudi Arabian universities as suggested by Al-Balawi (2007)

LMS are seen as important element of e-learning in higher education. Indeed, it is seen as a way to facilitate student focused, open, active, collaborative and life-ling learning and teaching (Uys, Kiravu & Mothibi, 2004, cited by Macharia & Nyakwende, 2010, Much research has indicated that there are many benefits for students if they engage with e-learning via LMS such as Blackboard (Bb), for instance, it reduces the limitations that may be created by distance and limited resources (Macharia & Nyakwende, 2010)

Given the importance of access to e-learning, it is important to investigate the adoption of female academic staff of LMS as the KSA has segregated universities. Therefore, there is the potential of some female students to be limited in terms of access to teaching and learning due to a lack of exposure to e-learning. This research will therefore, investigate the relationship and between female academic staff and their adoption of LMS to determine the possible reasons that contribute to the disparity in order to reduce the barriers that may impede technology adoption by female academic staff.

To achieve these research goals, this thesis adopts a TAM framework to examine how issues such as perceived usefulness of a technology, ease of use, cultural and social influence female academic staff’s use of LMS. Further, this research will explore how the female academics’ attitude toward using the technology, behavioural intentions, and institutional support to use LMS has influenced the adoption of LMS in higher education in KSA (Macharia & Nyakwende, 2010).

1.2 Research aims

The aims of this study will be to:

  1. examine the extent to which female academic staff in Saudi Arabian universities use learning management systems;

  2. seek to determine the factors (using Technology Acceptance Model) which may influence the uptake of LMS by female academic staff in Saudi Arabian universities;

  3. explore the influence of gender separation practices present in Saudi Arabian universities on the uptake of LMS by female academics; and

  4. present recommendations that could increase learning management system adoption by female academic staff in Saudi Arabian universities.

1.3 Research questions

Based on the aims of the research, the main research questions to be answered in the study are as follows:

  1. In what ways, and to what extent, do female academic staff currently use LMS in KSA Universities?

    1. What do female academic staff see as the value of e-learning and LMS to teaching and learning?

    2. What experiences in relation to teaching and learning in LMS do female academics have?

  1. How do internal factors (such as beliefs and attitudes) support and/or limit the adoption and use of LMS by female academic staff in KSA universities?

    1. How does female academic staff’s attitudes and beliefs towards technology influence their decision to adopt and use LMS?

    2. How does the perceived attitudes and beliefs of university students influence the female academic adoption of technology?

  1. How do external factors (such as access, students’ attitudes, institutional and cultural values, gender segration) support and/or limit the adoption and use of LMS by female academic staff in KSA universities?

    1. How does technology access influence the decision to adopt and use LMS by female academic staff?

    2. What training has been provided to female academics about teaching and learning in relation to LMS and how has this influenced their practices?

  1. What are the possible reasons for fewer female academic staff in Saudi Arabian universities utilising LMS?

  1. What support or changes would female academics staff perceive would be effective to increase the use of LMS in KSA universities?

1.4 Significance of the research

Research has demonstrated that LMS within e-learning have the potential to enrich educational experiences for both learners and educators. In particular, the affordances of LMS allow lecturers and students to connect without the confines of the traditional classrooms (Adzharuddin & Ling, 2013) irrespective of the gender of the learners or their tutors. Given this research, the lack of adoption of LMS by female academic staff is of concern, especially given the gender segregation of Saudi Arabia universities which means the female university students are primarily taught by female academic staff.

This research is therefore significant as it aims to investigate what factors influence the adoption of LMS and make recommendations to aim to increase female adoption of LMS. In doing so, improving the connection between students and learning, and female academic staff

This research aims to better understand the factors that affect women’s use of LMS and make recommendations that will inform universities in how to support female academic staff. For instance, if it is indeed true that fewer female academic staff in KSA universities use LMS compared to males, then it will be vital to highlight the factors that need to change in order to promote parity in LMS use by male and female KSA university academic staff. Further, this knowledge will contribute to what needs to be done to make LMS more popular, as it will consider the complexity of factors that influence technology acceptance such as the learning management system’s usefulness, perceived ease of use, as well as, cultural and institutional factors.

2. Broader Research Context

2.1 Literature Review

In the literature review of this study, three key areas related to the thesis topic will be investigated:

  • Higher education context in KSA

  • E-learning and LMS within in higher education in KSA

  • Female academic staff in higher education KSA

2.1.1. Higher Education Context in KSA

In the past decade, Saudi Arabian universities have been registering a steady increase in the student population. In the 2008/2009 academic year for example, a total number of 608,000 students were pursuing study programmes in the KSA’s 20 universities (Ministry of Higher Education, 2008). On average therefore, each university had about 30,400 students, which according to the Ministry of Education, is tantamount to overcrowding in the institutions of learning. In addition to overcrowding, a shortage of faculty members has also been identified as a major challenge in Saudi Arabian universities (Asiri, et al., 2012).

Saudi Arabia is a country with a serious determination to progress and enhance the education of its people. A university degree is considered very important for a successful life in KSA (Al Balawi, 2007). Historically higher educations in KSA Universities have relied on “traditional didactic, lecture-based classrooms” (Alebaikan & Troudi 2010, p. 508). However, since 2007, blended-learning and e-learning have become a well-established in KSA Universities (Alebaikan, 2010).

The KSA has a gender separation policy that does not allow female students to mix with their male counterparts. The separatist policy is not just in high education but in all levels of learning. Consequently, female academic staff members teach in female universities and colleges, while their male counterparts concentrate on teaching the male-dedicated institutions of higher learning. The foregoing separation does according to Alaugab (2007) put a strain on the teaching resources (including lecturers), who happen to be outnumbered by the large number of students willing to join universities in the KSA each year (Alzamil, 2006). This strain also extends to staffing level, as Alaugab (2007) notes, the number of female academic staff is fewer compared to that of male tutors at all academic levels.

Saudi Arabia therefore needs to find a way to deal with the dependence on teaching staff. One such way according to Clark and Meyer (2008) is by designing interactive course material and delivering the same through networks to students and adopting e-learning (Asiri et al., 2012).

2.1.2 E-learning within in Higher Education in KSA

Several studies have been conducted to establish the viability of e-learning in Saudi Arabia, and authors like Al-Harbi (2011) have established that e-learning has the potential of enriching educational experiences for both learners and educators. For instance, e-learning (and its applications) has the potential to enhance the reach of university courses to female students and would therefore only require a minimal number of female academic staff. An analysis of LMS by Al-Khalifa (2010) reveals that the e-learning platform has the multiple advantages of being: user friendly, easy to use, and multiple administrative and instructional functions among other support applications intended to help both lecturers and students enjoy and benefit from its use.

However, e-learning has a number of is dogged by several challenges, which are summarised below:

  • acceptability of technology by the Saudi learning and teaching community (Al-Harbi, 2011).

  • adoption of new technologies does not always occur uniformly among all people in a profession.

  • e-pedagogy is not widely used by educators in university set-ups because they “have limited pedagogical and technical experience in developing web-based teaching methods” (Alebaikan & Troudi, 2010, p. 510).

  • students in Saudi Arabian universities exhibited differences in their intention to use e-learning; their attitude towards the use of e-learning; their perceived usefulness of e-learning; and their perceived ease of use of e-learning There were also differences among students in terms of gender, faculties, resident (regular) and non-resident students (Al-Harbi, 2011).

  • unfavourable perceptions and attitudes towards e-learning by students (Al-Harbi, 2011).

  • making e-learning cost-effective is still a challenge (Al-Shehri, 2010)

  • a challenge in using technology in education, whereby, students are more interested in mastering technology, and in the process, lose sight of what education is all about (Al-Shehri, 2010).

  • absence of coordination and organisation among different organisations (Al-Shehri, 2010)

  • “technical support and infrastructure” is a major challenge for e-learning in Saudi Arabia (Al-Shehri, 2010, p.149) including policies, procedures, software and hardware capacity requirements needed for e-learning. This also extends to institutional or organisational vision.

  • Increase in the time requirements placed on educators (Alebaikan & Troudi (2010). Specifically, the authors found out that the virtual interaction required tutors to dedicate more time on and off college to monitor and/or evaluate students’ participation in electronic learning forums.

  • Lack of knowledge and research about learners including: what motivates them, what leads to students failing or withdrawing (Al-Shehri, 2010, p.149).

  • Internet access for all students and educators (Alebaikan & Troudi, 2010)

  • Plagiarism as there are existing non-plagiarism tools for use by universities, there is limited “anti-plagiarism software that supports the Arabic language” (Alebaikan & Troudi, 2010, p. 512).

Despite these currently challenges e-learning continues to grow in the higher education context within KSA. This has primarily been achieved via learning management systems.

2.1.2.1 Learning Management Systems

Currently, there is widespread use of LM like Moodle, WebCT and Blackboard (Bb)(Vrazalic et al. 2009; Chikh & Berkani, 2010), which are important element of in e-learning globally. According to Rogers, Berg, Boettcher, Howard, Justice and Schenk (2005), the term LMS takes into account any use of web technology to plan, organise, execute, and control the various aspects of the learning process. The same authors also quote Bersin’s (in Rogers, et al 2005) definition of an enterprise LMS, which is a single application utilised all over the enterprise to manage corporate training programmes. An LMS can also be termed as a course management system, a training administration system, a training management system, or an integrated learning system (Rogers et al., 2005; McArdle, Monahan & Bertolotto, 2007). But perhaps the most inclusive definition of LMS is that given by Greenberg (2002, cited by Rogers et al., 2005) which notes that an LMS is a high-level, deliberate solution for planning, implementing, and managing all learning activities within an organisation, including virtual classroom, online and instructor-guided courses. LMS offer the platform for organisations’ online learning environment by facilitating the management, implementation as well as monitoring of blended learning for a wide array of people including students, employees, customers and other stakeholders (Rogers et al., 2005, p. 1281).

The Bb LMS is one of the e-learning technologies that is commonly used by learning institutions across the world. Like other LMS, Bb’s main function includes course/content management, virtual classes, discussion board, and other collaboration tools such as blogs, email, podcasts and wiki (Badawood & Steenkamp, 2012). In Saudi Arabia, Bb is the most common LMS (Zouhair, 2010) and is therefore the LMS that this thesis will investigate. Its wide adoption is bolstered by its availability and early market penetration (Zouhair, 2010).

In a review of three leading universities in Saudi Arabia, Aljabre (2012) found that Bb LMS provided them with a platform through which they could hold classes, assess students’ work, and track grades for each student. Students can also join their tutors in the utilisation of multiple tools provided by Bb in activities such as application sharing, real-time quizzes, whiteboard and the recording and playback utilities (Aljabre, 2012).

Although the Saudi Arabian literature lacks precise numbers, or estimates, regarding the prevalence of Bb LMS and the hindrances or facilitating factors in its adoption and use, lessons from elsewhere in the world indicate that technology barriers and technology skills affect LMS adoption for both lecturers and students. Barczyk, Hixon, Buckenmeyer and Zamojski (2012) identified three major barriers as follows:

  • Students encountered technology barriers (e.g. the inability to access or surf the Internet) were less likely to easily adopt LMS. For instance, Bb’s multi-layer folder system for the management of course materials has also been criticised as constraining to instructors and confusing for students (Logan & Neumann, 2010).

  • The academic staff do not fully appreciate the technology skills that learners have and use technologies that students are not familiar with, or which the students find too outdated (or boring) for use.

  • Academic staff lag behind their students in technology-related matter and a lack of training programmes in order to enhance their technology competence.

Students and lecturers alike find Bb useful in facilitating learning and students found that integrating these with traditional learning methods was a significant driver of successful study outcomes (Abanmy & Hussein 2011; Lee, Hong & Ling, 2002; Alebaikan 2010). Studies investigating the efficacy of these tools and their application at universities in KSA are generally lacking (Alebaikan & Troudi, 2010; Al-Fahad 2009). To lecturers, the Bb LMS (just like other LMS versions) has the potential to improve teaching’s collaborative nature by enhancing the student-lecturer interaction experiences (Coopman, 2009). However, the LMS has the potential of making lecturing or teaching a static exercise through textualization (Coopman, 2009). Lecturers however have the benefit of updating course contents, integrating multimedia applications, conducting discussions, and initiating or participating in real-time chats with their students.

2.1.3 Female Academic Staff in Higher Education in KSA

Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in technology especially in its institutions of higher learning (Asiri et al., 2012). However, and as indicated by Albirini (2006), successful implementation and utilisation of technology in universities cannot be guaranteed by a technology-rich environment only; rather, acceptance of technology by key stakeholders (e.g. lecturers) is paramount for technology utilisation to be realised. Therefore, it also important to specifically research female academic staff in the KSA university context as they are one of the key stakeholder cohorts.

Information provided by the Ministry of Higher Education (2010) of the KSA reveal that, women in the Kingdom are enthusiastically pursuing higher education as well as professional careers and are keen to become active members of the society. In view of this, the Saudi Arabian government has started implementing a number of initiatives to promote higher education for women including the formation of the Princess Noura bint Abdul Rahman University for women. Many female academics from Saudi Arabian universities have also risen to become prominent in a number of fields such as science and research, and have won international awards and patents.

However, as Hamdan (2005) observes Saudi Arabian society is deeply gendered and as a result, women always hold lower positions when compared to their male counterparts. Hamdan (2005) further observes that women do not have power in key positions and are subordinate in both the public and private sectors. At the same time, women do not receive the same quality of education because teachers for males are better trained. In addition, access to facilities such as libraries is restricted for women. For instance, Hamdan (2005) notes that Saudi Arabian women cannot enjoy the 200 libraries in Saudi Arabia affiliated with learning institutions and religious institutions. They also cannot access the 70 public libraries save for situations where they go through a male relative liaison or use them only for restricted hours. Furthermore, libraries for women only are usually very small and oftentimes poorly equipped. This is compounded with the problem of cultural barriers that restrict access to and adoption of new learning technologies (Al Alhareth, McBride, Prior, Leigh, Flick, & Prior, 2013).

However, women in the KSA are gaining impressive milestones in education and careers and as such, should be afforded equal opportunities to study and work. Women in Saudi Arabia are more often employed in scientific institutions of higher learning. Such include the King Saud University (KSU), King Faisal University (KFU) and King Abdel Aziz University (KAU). The Umm Al-Qura University (UQU) is the only university that is seen to accommodate women academic staff within the Islamic universities (Mazawi, 2005). King Abdullah ordered and established a new university for females only which was called Princess Nora University for girls. Statistics provided by Mazawi (2005) indicate that “about 53% of all women are found in lower academic ranks – teaching assistants, instructors, assistant instructors or lecturers – compared with about 27% of men who hold similar positions” (p. 242). Additionally, promotion of women to some senior ranks (e.g. to the rank of a Professor or an Associate Professor) was only occasional, and by the time of his writing, Mazawi (2005) notes that only 17% of women in Saudi Universities held such senior ranks.

Regardless of their low representation among university academic staff, women have been found to lag behind in accepting and using LMS in higher education context. Research about adoption of technology more widely, indicates that it has been a traditionally masculine and male sphere. Research by Lucas (2003) noted that various aspects of the computing environment such as computer software, the language about computers and computer professionals have all been viewed in the masculine domain irrespective of the actual fact that women have historically been an integral component of technology development. Research also shows that men use the Internet resources mainly for gathering information while women use them largely for communication. According to Lucas (2003), using technology for communication is seen as a female domain, while utilising technology as a way of gathering information is perceived as a male tendency. Considering that female academic staff work in institutions where research and the provision of information to students by technology would be much easier, it remains an unanswered question as to why most females do not do use IT. Yet, this research cannot authoritatively state that female academic staff have not taken up, or utilised LMS and other technologies in education, because existing literature does not have sufficient evidence to support such an argument.

From the little research that exists (i.e. Asiri et al., 2012; Mazawi, 2005), it would appear that the deeply gendered society in Saudi Arabia may also have impacted upon the lower adoption of e-learning platforms in KSA’s universities. Personal barriers as identified by Asiri et al. (2012) such as attitudes, perceptions and beliefs of female engagement which technology may also impact upon adoption of LMS in higher education contexts. In a study by Al-Kahtani (2006), it was revealed that an unequal distribution of resources and support, such as in-service training, may also impact upon LMS adoption.

2.1.4 Gaps in the Literature

Despite the breadth of literature that focuses on the e-learning there are a number of limitations that my research can address. My review of the current literature has identified three primary gaps:

2.1.4.1 Need for a focus on Academic Staff Engagement with LMS

A number of research projects have been conducted on LMS in Saudi Arabia, however, many of these studies (such as Zakaria et al., 2013) have mainly centred on student perspectives, students’ learning and students’ use of LMS. Rather than the experiences of academic staff/lecturer (some exceptions include Al Balawi 2007).

2.1.4.2 Need for a focus on Female Academic Staff Engagement with e-learning

Fewer studies have been conducted about e-learning or LMS and female academic staff in Saudi Arabian universities. Existing literature has identified that female academics use LMS to a lesser extent than their male counterparts (Al-Balawi, 2007). However, missing from this research is an in-depth study into the reasons for this occurrence and why it is important. Therefore, this research will be important for the stories, experiences and perceptions of female academic staff in relation to LMS usage and what it may reveal about how to change such participation.

2.1.4.3 Need for a focus on Female Academic Staff in KSA

Notably, most of the mentions about women academic staff in Saudi Arabia are done in a rather casual manner, usually hidden in larger amounts addressing other issues. Mazawi (2005) has for example mentioned women academic staff but only as part of a larger research investigating how the higher education in the KSA accommodates different social groups. Asiri et al. (2012) on the other hand has addressed gender as one of the factors affecting LMS adoption in Saudi Arabia. Specific attention to female academic staff is needed if KSA is to address the increase of e-learning and “the success of technology implementation in higher education” (Asiri et al., 2012, p. 130).

3. Research Context

The literature review has identified a diversity of impacts on adoption of LMS such as: rise of e-learning within KSA; the barriers and limitations of technology; cultural and social expectation of female academic staff. Given this diversity of adoption factors, the research will adopt a TAM framework (Davis, 1986, 1989; Davies et al., 1989 – cited by Ku, 2009, p. 39) in the design of the research. A key feature of this framework is that it acknowledges diversity of internal and external factors and investigates the factors that influence the usage of technology. In doing so, this research will be able to investigate the adoption of LMS of female academic staff from a multitude of perspectives.

Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) is one of the models used to analyse users’ acceptance of new technologies. This part presents a discussion about this model. The discussion focuses on the definition of TAM, various studies in which the model has been used, and the reasons for using the model. It will also present the strengths and weaknesses of TAM with respect to using the model in studies about adoption of new technologies. By determining the factors (using Technology Acceptance Model) that influence the uptake of LMS by female academic staff in Saudi Arabian universities we can identify the possible reasons for fewer female academic staff in Saudi Arabian universities using LMS compared to their male counterparts.

TAM, which was originally advanced by Davies (1986, cited by Ku, 2009, p. 39), is defined as a model that was designed to predict users’ acceptance of information technology and usage in an organisational perspective (Lule, Omwansa & Waema, 2012; Asiri et al., 2012). According to Chen, Li and Li (2011), TAM is one of the most powerful research models used in research about determinants of information technology and information systems acceptance to predict users’ intent to use various types of information technologies and systems (p. 124). TAM was draw from the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) (Leong & Huang, 2002, p. 436), which suggests that a person’s beliefs influence attitude and subjective norms that reflect on behavioural intent as well as that person’s behaviour (Raoprasert & Islam, 2010). For this reason, both models were noted to make predictions about intentions and usage adequately. Nevertheless, TAM has attitudinal causal factors which outperformed those of TRA with a bigger set of measures. Therefore, TAM’s theoretical insights offer a robust foundation from which to measure the breadth factors that contribute to female academic staff’s reception of technology (Leong & Huang, 2002).

TAM posits two cognitive beliefs: perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness (Park, 2009). Perceived ease of use implies the extent to which a person thinks that making use of a certain system would require less effort (Leong & Huang, 2002; Chen et al., 2011). This means that using a particular system should be hassle-free. On the other hand, perceived usefulness means the extent to which a person thinks that making use of a given system would improve his or her level of performance (Leong & Huang, 2002, p. 436; Chen et al., 2011). This implies that a system is perceived by users to be useful if they think that it will lead to more efficient performance of the tasks they are involved in. The two facets of TAM are useful in the study of any information technology or system such as LMS since a system can only be regarded valuable if it brings a particular benefit to the users (usefulness) and if the users are able to use it seamlessly.

Several authors have used TAM in their research. A brief review is presented here:

  • Shroff, Deneen and Ng (2011) analysed TAM in order to assess learners’ behavioural intention to make use of an electronic portfolio system, exploring how students use and appropriate the system within the specific context of a course. The authors used TAM because it seemed favourably applicable for understanding conceptual issues related to e-portfolio use.

  • Park (2009) used TAM to investigate university students’ behavioural intention to make use of e-learning. The study involved 628 university students. Park (2009) used TAM in the study because based on a review of various sources, TAM is a solid theoretical model whose validity extends to various contexts like multimedia and e-learning which was the subject of the study (p. 152)

  • Al- Adwan, Al- Adwan and Smedley (2013) used TAM to investigate students who make an effort to successfully take up e-learning systems in universities in Jordan. This was based on the thinking that although many universities all over the world are making use of Internet-based learning structures, the effectiveness of their execution needs a broad comprehension of the end users’ acceptance process. Al- Adwan et al. (2013) used TAM because it is regarded one of the renowned models associated with technology acceptance and use; it has also proved to be useful in explaining and prefiguring user perception of information technology.

As seen through these three sample uses of TAM, it is evident that it is an effective theoretical model to learn about the multitude of factors that influence technology use. Given the focus on the diversity of factors, this research will also adopt TAM to understand how female academic staff in Saudi Arabia adopt LMS into their teaching and learning practices and provides a theory to discuss reasons and personal circumstances which impact on the adoption of technology.

TAM has a number of strengths and weaknesses. The strengths of the model include focus on information system usage, its validity, its reliability, and its cost effectiveness (Mathieson, 1991, cited by Demertzoglou, 2008). The other advantages include the capacity to analyse in depth behavioural phenomena for a wide array of technologies and populations (Flavian & Gurrea, 2007). For instance, findings in all the studies discussed above (Park, 2009; Shroff et al., 2011; Al- Adwan et al., 2013) showed that TAM is an appropriate theoretical tool to comprehend users’ reception of e-learning. Further, Chen et al. (2011) reviewed 24 studies on various attributes of TAM and concluded that the model is a useful theoretical tool that can help to understand and explain users’ behaviour in the implementation of information systems.

The weaknesses of the model according to Willis (2008), is that TAM does not take into account the effect of the feeling that users have when they are offered a particular technology. The model makes the assumption that every technology that is being reviewed is totally new to the users. However, in many cases this is not true since new technologies are developed from existing technologies which the users are familiar with to different degrees (pp. 50-51). For instance, a learning management system like Bb is best suited for users who have Internet and email skills; so to such people, using the system is not an entirely new phenomenon. But users who have no Internet and email skills will regard Bb as a very complex system. Second, the model fails to consider the temporal components of user behaviour (Howell, 2007). It is common knowledge that upon implementation of a particular information technology, users will develop different attitudes and habits towards its use, good or bad, which also need to be considered. Third, critics point out that TAM needs to include new variables with the objective of improving knowledge and to adapt the model to different contexts with special interest (Flavian & Gurrea, 2007). These attributes are lacking in the model’s original state. For instance, with respect to studies concerning e-learning, modifications to the model could include expanding it to include additional beliefs that can affect the acceptance of e-learning, such as social influence as suggested by Al- Adwan et al. (2013). This research will try to overcome the above indicated weaknesses by adopting some of Al-Adwan et al.’s (2013) suggestions. Specifically, the researcher will introduce modifications to the TAM model to enable identification of all factors that affect the acceptance of LMS by female academic staff in Saudi Arabia.

In conclusion, TAM is a model designed to predict users’ adoption of information technology and systems. The model has been the most widely used in research about technology adoption to date and has been in used in various studies for various purposes (Park, 2009; Shroff et al., 2011; Al- Adwan et al., 2013). In this thesis, TAM’s advantages will be capitalised on and the researcher will also try to minimise the model’s weaknesses by modifying it to serve the research objectives by focusing on a particular technology (LMS) rather than all e-learning aspects. In doing so, there is the potential to fill existing gaps in knowledge, in regard to factors that influence the adoption of LMS among female academic staff in Saudi Arabian universities. Such information will be crucial in enhancing the relative position that women who are interested in pursuing an education and careers have in the Saudi society. The separation of students on gender basis makes it a matter of urgency that female academic staff should possess equal skills and competencies to their male counterparts since that is the only way students can access equal opportunities in learning.

3.1 Research Methodology

One of the main criticisms aimed at TAM its overreliance on quantitative methods of research (Brewer & Hunter, 2006; Creswell & Plano, 2007; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003). In response to this criticism this research will use a mixed method strategy. The use of mixed methods in this research is based on the understanding that “different methods may be integrated into one study in order to facilitate a TAM-based understanding of ‘usefulness’ and ‘ease of use” (Wu, 2009, p. 4). In specific terms, mixed methods research is defined as the kind of research in which a researcher or a group of researchers utilises aspects of quantitative and qualitative research strategies for the purposes of wider and deeper understanding as well as corroboration (Cresswell & Clark, 2011, p. 4). The process represents a collection of designs or approaches (quantitative and qualitative) for gathering, analysing, interpreting, and reporting data in practical studies (Clark, Creswell, Green & Shope, 2008, p. 364). In mixed methods research, the researcher is involved in a number of processes as outlined next. The researcher gathers and analyses convincingly and meticulously both quantitative and qualitative data (based on the defined research questions). He or she mixes, integrates or connects the two kinds of data simultaneously by combining them, in sequence by having one develop based on the other, or entrenching one within the other. The researcher also prioritises one or both types of data based on the emphasis of the research and uses the procedures in one study or in numerous phases of the study programme. In addition, the researcher frames the methods within theoretical worldviews and amalgamates the methods into definite research designs that guide the plan for carrying out the study (Cresswell & Clark, 2011, p. 5).

Mixed methods research has many benefits, which mainly stem from the point that using two methods together results in a better understanding of the problems being investigated (Clark et al. 2008, p. 366). Since the mixed methods approach involves a combination of various research methods, researchers may obtain stronger, more supported conclusions compared to using just one method. In addition, the use of both quantitative and qualitative methods can facilitate the progressive building of knowledge, especially when the methods are used in a sequence. Mixed methods research can also produce more persuasive accounts of an issue being investigated because they combine statistical outcomes with qualitative information and quotes and therefore may appeal to a wider audience (Clark et al. 2008, p. 366).

The negatives of mixed methods research include the point that it is difficult to determine whether the method is appropriate and feasible for a given research. Also, mixed methods research studies are challenging designs that require considerable time, skills and resources to successfully implement both the qualitative and quantitative aspects. There is also need to address critical issues such as how the two datasets will be related to each other as well as how the research will have an enhanced value beyond the sum of the two aspects (Clark et al. 2008, p. 366).

In the research proposed, the quantitative method will involve a survey of female academic staff and the qualitative method will involve follow-up interviews with 6 female academic staff. This will ensure the complexity of technology use and adoption it researched.

3.1.1 Participants

Participation in this research will be based on fixed criteria, whereby purposeful and information rich sampling approaches will be used. These will include: participants must be female and working as a female academic staff in two of the identified Saudi Arabian universities. They must also be aware of the presence of LMS in the universities irrespective of whether they use them or not. This criteria is based on Michael Quinn Patton sampling strategy, whereby the sample is not only purposeful (i.e. the sample is derived through emphasis on an in-depth understanding of the issues to be addressed) but also information-rich (i.e. the sample is likely to provide rich information targeted for the study).

The two universities are located in Riyadh which is the capital city of Saudi Arabia.

  • King Saud University (KSU): Created in 1982 to meet the needs for more skilled professional workers in KSA. Approximately 35,810 students (both male and female) attend KSU. The female students attend their own centre and are taught by either female academic staff or male academic staff through a closed television network. The institution offers undergraduate and postgraduate study programmes in the natural sciences, professional studies and humanities, for which it does not charge tuition fees. The medium of instruction in first degree programmes is English except for Islamic and Arabic subjects (www.ksu.edu.sa). The university currently has close to more than 3000 female academic staff.

  • Princes Nourah bint Abdulrahman University (PNU) is female university only It is one of the ten biggest universities in the world and the largest university for women the world over. The university offers diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate study programmes. It has more than 42,000 students across 15 colleges. This university has a similar number of 400 female academic staff. Much of the teaching is done via video link (http://www.pnu.edu.sa).

The female academic staff from these two universities will be both surveyed widely using the Qualtrics software via email and a smaller sample will be interviewed to ensure breadth and width to the research. These methods and the reasons for selection are outlined below.

3.1.2 Survey

In the proposed research, a total of 800 female academic staff will be targeted in two universities in Saudi Arabia. To provide a statistically valid representation of the female academic staff working in Saudi Arabia, the research aims to have a response of approximately 400 female academic staff from each university. Questionnaires will be prepared and provided to the participants for completion as an online survey via the Qualtrics software. This will ensure convenience to the participants and ensure that as many participants as possible can be reached within a short time. Please refer to Appendix A for survey questions.

A survey method was chosen as a way of because it can be used in understanding or predicting the behaviour of human behaviour (Hutchinson, 2004), which augurs well with using the technology acceptance model as has been suggested for this research. Further, there is evidence that survey studies can be used in understanding people’s interests and concerns through analysis of their behavioural, descriptive or preferential characteristics (Hutchinson, 2004, p. 285).

Writing about survey research, Mitchell and Jolley (2013) argue that a survey research is valuable in that it is a fast and less costly way to gather a lot of information about a sample’s beliefs, attitudes, as well as self-reported behaviours. But even with this point in mind, it is worthwhile to note that if participants’ self-reports are inaccurate, the survey will encompass poor construct validity. In addition, if the sample is biased, the survey will reflect poor external validity. Furthermore, survey research results are most likely to have poor internal validity because the survey cannot reveal why something happened. If the purpose of the survey is to determine what causes a certain effect, then it is best not to use a survey design (Mitchell & Jolley, 2013

The advantages of using survey methods like questionnaire include: ease of obtaining information from participants in a side geographical area, participants in the study can be anonymous and hence provide honest answers; and the method is cheap for collecting information from many people (Thomas, Nelson & Silverman, 2011, p. 289; Mitchell & Jolley, 2013, p. 286). There also are several disadvantages of using first surveys. First, surveys that depend on self-administered questionnaires are likely to have a low return rate. And since some of the individuals who return the questionnaire may not be the ones who were targeted in the research, the sample may be biased. Second, since the researcher and the participant do not interact during the survey, problems in the questionnaire cannot be corrected. Hence, if the survey contains an ambiguous question, the researcher is unable to help the participant understand the question (Mitchell & Jolley, 2013). This will ensure convenience to the participants and ensure that as many participants as possible can be reached within a short time.

The design of the survey will draw upon existing literature such as Asiri, et al. (2012). Asiri, et al. (2012) used the TAM model to evaluate the attitudes of faculty members towards the use of the Jusur LMS. The study also evaluated the level of faculty members’ competence in using the Jusur LMS. In the proposed study, the research will be a close reproduction of Al balawi’s (2007) research conducted in KSA. Al balawi’s (2007) research investigated the factors related to attitudes of faculty toward web-based instruction (WBI) that may be of help in developing and executing distance learning and WBI in universities in Saudi Arabia; the perception of faculty toward development and execution of WBI; and other issues related to the personal and professional attributes of members of faculty that could affect attitudes towards distance learning. The study conducted by Al balawi (2007) included a survey that included participants from three Saudi Arabian universities (King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran and King Saud University in Riyadh). The 531 members of faculty who constituted the sample in the study were selected at random from lists of faculty members given to the researcher by each of the three institutions. The participants were required to participate in survey in which they responded to prepared research questions (questionnaire). This proposed study extends this study to focus specifically on female academics and provides additional data via interviews. The use of a survey questionnaire similar to that used by Al balawi (2007) is supported in literature by (Abu-Dalbouh, 2013). In the study by Abu-Dalbouh (2013), a survey questionnaire based on TAM was used to measure the factors that affect the implementation of a mobile technology system for monitoring patient condition.

3.1.3 Interview

This research will use the results of the survey to plan the questions for the interview and focus (See Appendix B). A limited number of six female academic staff members (three from each of the featured universities) will be invited to participate in the interview. The criteria for invitation to participate will be that the participant must have participated in the survey; at least 2 will have had experience in using LMS. The respondents will be identified from the email contact and will be approached by the researcher, who will make it known that participation is voluntary. Follow up interviews will be done to clarify issues that would have been identified from the survey results.

The use of interviews was to provide a wider data set to which personal stories can be told and therefore, lead to collection of more valid data due to the personal interaction between the researcher and the research participants and the opportunity to make ensure that respondents understand the questions (Thomas et al., 2011). Along the same line, it is possible for the interviewer to motivate respondents to give more precise and complete information than the survey alone (Monette, Sullivan, DeJong & Hilton, 2011). Because of the interviewer’s presence, participants have the chance to expand their ideas, elucidate their ideas and identify what they deem to be crucial factors (Martyn, 2010). Importantly, for this research, it is possible for a multilingual interviewer to conduct the research with various respondents in different languages (Monette et al., 2011).

The interviews may also be more flexible than using just survey questions. The interview can be designed to match the needs of the participants and they may be are more likely to open up and give more honest and meaningful responses to the interview questions (Wilkinson & Birmingham, 2003; Monette et al., 2011).

There are several disadvantages associated with using personal interviews. First is the high cost since the interviewer has to travel to meet the respondents personally. The second disadvantage is that a lot of time is required and the interviewer can conduct only a few interviews each day. The third point is that there can be interviewer bias. This is because the interviewer may misinterpret or mis-record something said by a respond duty to their personal feelings about the topic. Additionally, the respondent’s characteristics such as age, sex, social class, race and many others may faintly affect the way the interviewer asks questions and interprets the answers provided by the participants (Monette et al., 2011, p. 186).

Based on the factors, which include the flexibility, precision, validity, and the one-on-one communication which enhances the possibility of getting more accurate answers from the respondents, interviews will be adopted for use in this research to supplement and add depth to the survey questions.

3.1.4 Research Procedure

The following procedure will be followed by the researcher to conduct the research:

  1. Ethics submitted and approved.

  2. Approval from the two universities gained.

  3. Invitation email sent to participants using the Qualtrics software. The link to the survey will be distributed by the university.

  4. Survey data analysed, the results of the survey will be used to plan the themes and interview questions.

  5. Interview questions designed.

  6. Interview participants will be approached.

  7. Interviews conducted.

  8. Interview and survey data analysed.

3.2 Analysis

Since the survey questionnaires will be designed using Qualtrics, responses will also be received through the same mode. These statistics (quantitative data) will be analysed using statistic program which is called SPSS. From the data, an analysis will be conducted to determine the percentages and frequencies of specific responses. Age will also be used as an independent variable and will be compared with dependent variables, which include the perceived ease of use and the perceived usefulness of LMS using cross tabulations in the database. Patterns linked to TAM themes (i.e. age, experience, perceived ease of use, perceived usefulness, intentions, attitudes, social factors, facilitating factors, and actual usage) will then be linked to the results.

Analysing the interview data (qualitative data) will be done by reading and re-reading the results and establishing themes linked to the TAM themes. Coding the interview data into meaningful categories will enable the researcher to organise data and discover any patterns that might exist. The researcher will also be able to determine if there are any deviations from identified patterns. Closely related to TAM themes, the researcher using SPSS will also identify if some of the independent variables (e.g. age, or past experiences) have any bearing on respondents’ attitudes or perceptions. The researcher will also be able to establish interesting responses that may illuminate the central research inquiry.

3.3 Final outcome

It is envisaged that this research will result in a number of outcomes:

  • Provide general information about LMS use by female academic staff

  • Identify the internal and external factors that influence female academic staff adoption LMS and more broadly e-learning.

  • Identify the role of gender segregation on e-learning and LMS adoption

The main aim of the research is to use this information learned about internal and external factors to develop recommendations that could be used to encourage more female academic staff to use LMS. In doing so, it is envisaged these recommendations may be implemented to ensure more equitable access to e-learning for female students in Higher Education in KSA.

4. Research plan/ timeline

Ethic submitted

Conformation of Candidature completed presentation 2014

Survey developed

Survey administrated to female academic staff in three universities in KSA

September

Initial survey data analysed to determine interview questions and focus

October — December

Complete Literature Review Chapter and Introduction Chapter

Conduct interviews

Mid Candidature Review completed

Jan — March

Transcribe interviews

Write Methodology chapters

April – July

Analyse data from survey and interviews

Complete Completion Seminar

Complete Findings and Recommendations Chapter

Jan – April

Edit and prepare for submission

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