Open Source Software and Learning Management System Data
In the introduction, I discuss how adopting open source course management systems appeals to administrators, in the name of savings, and to faculty, in the name of student engagement. In this section, I will share relevant data concerning computer-mediated instruction.
Interestingly, young faculty are not spearheading the move to teach online. According to The National Center for Educational Statistics's The Condition of Education: 2006 (the center's last measure of electronic learning), in 2003,
8.3% of full-time associate or full professor rank have taught distance education courses, while
8.0% of full-time assistant professors, lecturers and instructors have taught distance education courses.
With a standard error rate of +/- .3%, no real distinction exists. Both tenured and untenured faculty teach about the same number of online courses.
A difference exists, however, in the number of course preparations that those teaching online incur. On average, those teaching online courses teach 3.7 different courses while those who do not teach online teach 2.3 different courses. Including the error rate, those teaching online courses teach about one more course.
Those who teach online courses have higher workloads, in terms of number of courses taught; thus, those faculty would more likely appreciate using a CMS that requires fewer mouse clicks, or less labor.
In 2003, About 88 percent of public two-year colleges and 86 percent of public four-year colleges offer for credit distance education courses. Only 40 percent of private four-year colleges and 12 percent of private two-year colleges offer for credit distance education courses (these figures do not include for-profit colleges). In 2004-2005, a total of 62 percent of post-secondary institutions offered distance education courses. In 1997-1998, only 34 percent of institutions offered distance education courses (“Contexts”).
In 2001, 2,320 of 4,130 surveyed institutions offered distance education courses to about 3.1 million two and four year college students.
Also in 2001, about 30 percent of institutions offering distance education courses offered a degree that could be completed entirely through distance education.
Thus, the demand for CMS is on the rise, as the increasing number of courses offered through distance education need a delivery mechanism. Additionally, courses that require writing, collaboration or discussions require CMS with the ability to do more than store and disseminate documents.
In “Students and Information Technology, 2005: Convenience, Connection, Control, and learning,” Judith Borreson Caruso and Robert B. Kvavik report that in 2005, 99 percent of students use computers to write documents while 65 percent of students access a CMS to complete a task. Additionally, 40 percent of students prefer moderate technology use in their courses while 27 percent prefer extensive technology use and 4 percent prefer no technology use.
While the majority of students prefer to use technology in their courses, many do not take full advantage of course management systems. For example, in “Measuring Student Experiences with Course Management Systems,”
Judith Borreson Caruso reports that
95.2 percent of students use a CMS to access syllabus materials
94 percent of students use a CMS to access links or texts
80 percent of students use a CMS to submit assignments
78.2 percent of students use a CMS to participate in online discussions
67.5 percent of students access a CMS to share materials with other students
67.2 percent of students use a CMS to retrieve graded assignments.
Additionally, students rate “keeping track of grades” as the most useful feature of a CMS while participating in forums is the least useful feature of a CMS. Sharing materials with other students rates as the second-to-least useful feature of a CMS.
The data compiled by Borreson Caruso and Kvavik, as well as Borreson Caruso, indicates that students are willing to use technology in the classroom; however, the data also shows that students are critical of the ways in which they use course management systems. Perhaps the data shows that students do not consider online discussions as a replacement to face-to-face discussions. Borreson Caruso reports that students perceive online discussions as “busy work,” but they certainly valued a “robust discussion.”
In 2005, Computer Economics released the results of an important survey of visitors of its website in “Key of Open Source is Not Cost Savings” (Information Technology consultants make up the bulk of Computer Economics readers). The survey inquired about the key advantage of using open source software: economics is not the key advantage of adopting open source software. While fewer than 5 percent of respondents indicate that open source software is more secure than other software,
18 percent of respondents cite ease of customization as the key advantage
22 percent of respondents cite lower cost” as the key advantage, and
44 percent of respondents cite “less dependence on vendors” as the key advantage.
These results indicate a general resistance to the corporate model of software distribution, as both vendors and cost are products of the marketplace. It seems that Information Technology consultants value independence and the ability to modify systems to their own need and at their own pace.
Since 70 percent of students prefer at least moderate use of technology in the classroom and since students value in-depth, exciting forum discussions, they may be ready to engage with course materials in different ways. As Cole reports, Moodle is capable of asking students to write journals, peer workshop, assess their own writing, and collaborate on creating a course lexicon (6-7). Dana Lynn Driscoll offers an extensive review of Moodle. The Moodle Workshop is perhaps the most versatile tool for college faculty teaching writing.
Next: Becoming a Moodle Buddy or Moodle Workshop