Students' perceptions of an online learning management system

Vincent Tam, Alvin C M Kwan, C H Leung,
Lawrence Yeung and Zexian Liao
University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong SAR, China

Yoko Hirata
Hokkai-Gakuen University
Sapporo, Japan

Learning management systems (LMSs) have been widely employed in the classroom as powerful educational support tools to facilitate foreign language teaching. Such web-based systems have been regarded as beneficial for students, promoting flexible and autonomous learning in their own time and at their own pace, even outside the classroom. However, the challenge in designing the web-based lessons provided by these systems is how to enhance motivation, as well as facilitate collaboration and communication, in students who are accustomed to a teacher-directed and controlled teaching methodology (Gitsaki 2005). Instructors also need to know how to develop online activities for students with various linguistic strengths and weaknesses. Although, in Japanese educational settings, various LMSs have been introduced in computer-assisted language learning environments, effective approaches for promoting student learning with an LMS have not been given much attention thus far. In addition, a major issue to be considered is how to use such systems to encourage students to become responsible for their learning and develop a sense of ownership in web-based environments.

This paper describes a study aimed at examining Japanese students' perceptions of an LMS in both face-to-face and online cooperative activities. The presentation will first outline the system structure of an LMS called WebTubeTM, which has been introduced into many Japanese secondary and tertiary institutions. It will then illustrate language activities which were implemented in a one-year English course at a Japanese university, for the purposes of enhancing motivation and maximizing the quality of students' online experiences. The main focus is on how students' attitudes towards the LMS have changed during web-based cooperative language learning. It was found that the different forms of interaction provided by WebTubeTM encouraged students to work together as teams to solve their problems in realistic ways; and they also exchanged information extensively with others to accomplish their shared learning goals. With the help of WebTubeTM, students developed a sense of community and took responsibility for their learning. Based on statistical data collected from students' questionnaires as well as real-time observations, the problems and benefits of cooperative activities using WebTubeTM are examined, and recommendations are offered for the future development of web-based language learning.