Student experiences in using course management systems in higher education

Nicol F C Pan and Angie H Y Sun
University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong SAR, China

The many recent internal and external pressures on universities have created the need to look at teaching and learning patterns and practices from a new perspective to meet the challenges created by knowledge-based societies. Course Management Systems (CMS) are frequently viewed as a potential solution to promoting the quality of teaching and learning in higher education. CMS can provide a unique bridge between the classroom and the world beyond, and allow instruction to become more authentic, as well as encouraging collaborative work among students. Nevertheless, the pedagogical contribution of CMS remains debatable, in particular whether they can be used as a lever for educational change in higher education.

A two-year research project was set up at a university in Hong Kong, with the aim of providing a better understanding of CMS implementation and formulating practical guidelines for educators, teachers, and administrators in planning the deployment of CMS. This paper presents the project's first-stage findings from around 1,000 completed student survey responses. The survey investigates students' experience with CMS and other technology, and the findings indicate that CMS are widely used by the majority of both undergraduate and postgraduate students -- most often for course information retrieval and submitting assignments. The paper reports the differences in using CMS in relation to factors such as gender, study level and academic discipline, and also highlights students' descriptions of good and bad experiences in using CMS and other technologies to support their studies.