Editor’s Note: This study reminds us that, like audiovisual aids, the web is initially a supplement for traditional face-to-face-teaching. Our first attempts at distance learning emulate the lecture-demonstration-discussion model. Students feel isolated and interaction is minimal. As advantages of the web become apparent - anywhere-anytime learning; greater opportunities for student-to-student and student-to-teacher interaction; and extended learning resources - we graduate to new concepts of communication, teaching and learning where the student has greater flexibility and control of the learning process.
Examining the Levels of Web-ness of Online Courses
Total number of courses offered by USP
Total number of courses utilizing Moodle
% of Moodle usage
Table 2 and Figure 3 show the summary of the number of courses on Moodle according to the levels of web-ness for Semesters 1 and 2 of 2010.
Level of web-ness
Web supported (basic)
Web enhanced (hybrid)
Web based (fully online)
From this study, it was found that in Semester 1, from a total of 149 courses, 99 courses were web supported, 48 courses were web enhanced and just 2 courses were web based. For Semester 2, from a total of 179 courses, 131 courses were web supported, 46 courses were web enhanced and just 2 courses were web based. Similar data is presented on Table 3 but is further elaborated as a percentage of the total courses offered.
Level of web-ness
% of total course offered in Sem 1 (n=491)
% of total course offered in Sem 2 (n=482)
Web supported (basic)
Web enhanced (hybrid)
Web based (fully online)
The results of this study provided some interesting insight in the varying levels of web-ness in courses using Moodle at USP. The results indicate a slight increase (6.8%) in the overall use of Moodle, irrespective of the differing levels of web-ness, moving from Semester 1 to 2 despite a slight reduction in the total number of courses being offered by the University. Moodle was used for 37.14% of the courses in Semester 2 compared to 30.35% in Semester 1. As a direct result of this, there was an increase in the web-supported courses from Semester 2 over Semester 1. Moodle was used for 131 (27.18%) of web supported classroom courses in Semester 2, an increase of approximately 7%. Reasons for these two interrelated trends are explained below.
First, the increase can be attributed to increase in awareness and training workshops carried out at regular interval by USP’s Centre for Flexible and Distance Learning (CFDL). CFDL provides series of training workshops on online learning and teaching to lecturers on a regular basis. Ellis & Phelps (2000) suggest that academic staff development that seamlessly incorporates both technical skills and pedagogies ought to serve to model quality teaching practices within any LMS, and, thus, CFDL training workshops integrate pedagogy with technology rather than just providing hands-on practical/technical training. Tremendous work has also been put into raising awareness of Moodle usage at the University since its inception in 2007. Showcases, faculty road-shows and seminars have been organized in the past by CFDL. In July 2010, CFDL hosted a week-long Moodle Forum which enabled lecturers, instructional designers and education technologists to share their experiences. The Forum which was opened by Martin Dougiamas, the founder of Moodle, was well received by the USP community.
An additional reason for increase in the use of Moodle in Semester 2 may be due to the ‘word of mouth’ or ‘catching the bus’ effect which is a direct result of increasing awareness of Moodle use. Morgan (2003) reported similar phenomena at the University of Wisconsin System in USA stating the influence of peers’ recommending an LMS or by setting examples using the technology were some factors that promoted the adoption of LMS among lecturers. It is also important to point out that pressure or persuasion from USP’s Head of Schools and Faculty Deans was another reason for the growth in Moodle usage in Semester 2, 2010. The use of Moodle and online learning and teaching in general also carried ‘more weight’ when lecturers applied for salary increments in staff reviews, which perhaps was also another reason.
Although there was an increase in Moodle usage (due to reasons outlined above), much of the use concentrated on content presentation or as web supported classroom (an increase of approximately 7%). A similar result was also found by Shemla and Nachmias (2007) when they studied the purpose and extent of usage of course websites at Tel-Aviv University in Israel, noting that lecturers conceived course websites to be content providers rather than communication facilitators only realizing, to a limited extent, the pedagogical potential. This is due to the fact the lecturers engaged in design and delivery using LMS face challenges in a variety of areas: technology, logistics, organization and delivery (Dabbagh, 2001) and using Moodle requires technical and pedagogical skills, patience, and dedication. Thus, it is understandable that lecturers new to Moodle will take time to really get in the grips of using LMS as web enhanced or web based classroom, and are “generally much slower to adopt the more complex or interactive parts of the LMS” (Morgan, 2003) thus starting off with the basic use of Moodle in web supported classrooms.
One other trend obvious from the results is that the number of web enhanced courses remained same (48 courses in Semester 1 and 46 courses in Semester 2) and remained very low (Approximately 10% of the total courses offered at USP). This can be attributed to the fact that most lecturers are fairly new to Moodle and to the concept of online learning and teaching. However, their use of Moodle seems to evolve over time, i.e. starting from a basic web supported course, gaining more experience and confidence along the process and, after using Moodle for 2 or 3 semesters, then they start to use more dynamic and interactive Moodle tools in their courses. Morgan (2003) in a study of Faculty’s use of LMS at the University of Wisconsin System in USA noticed a similar situation, reporting that:
Once faculty starts to use a LMS, their use of the technology tends to grow. Nearly, two thirds of the faculty surveyed said that they used a LMS more extensively than they first started using the technology. By far the most important reason given for the growth in their LMS use was that, over time, they began to see the increased uses for it in their teaching. (Morgan, 2003, p. 3)
Finally, the results suggest that despite the increase in courses using Moodle (approximately 7% of courses), the number of web based or fully online courses remained the same and very low (2 courses, approximately 0.4% of the total courses offered at USP). There could be several reasons for this trend; however, the major factor could be that most lecturers at USP are not yet experienced and skilled enough to deliver fully online courses, facilitate online learning and teaching, and to nurture sense of community. And also, perhaps, the web based or fully online model of course delivery may not be preferred by the learners in the region because there are still disparities in terms of internet connectivity, information literacy and access to ICT in the region. On that note, Sikora and Carroll (2002) reported that online higher education students tend to be less satisfied with totally online courses when compared to traditional courses.
Morgan (2003) aptly highlights that one needs to understand how LMS works before one can drive it. There still needs to be lot of work done considering the fact that USP has a very ambitious institutional goal of offering most of its courses fully online. But the slight increase in the overall use of Moodle is a small step towards achieving this feat. The use is anticipated to exponentially grow even more in 2011 after a directive from the University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor (Learning, Teaching and Student Services) instructing all lecturers for a mandatory use of Moodle as part of their course delivery in 2011. With the introduction of new learning technologies in some of the USP courses such as ePortfolios (Prasad, 2010) mobile learning initiatives (Kumar, 2010), open educational resources, game-based learning activities (Totaram, 2010), integrated third party applications (Bhartu, 2010) and podcasting, there are signs that more courses will begin to use Moodle in web enhanced or web based classrooms.
This study has several implications for lecturers, instructional designers, education technologists, faculty and university administrators, and researchers particularly for those in the South Pacific region. Similar studies need to be carried out in 2011 and trends should be elicited to see if there are any changes to the level of web-ness in online courses at USP. In addition, this future research should further drill-down faculty-wise, school-wise and programme-wise to identify, classify and quantify level of web-ness in the USP courses and per undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Another area for future study should look at the quality and effectiveness of the web supported, web enhanced and web based courses at USP with strong emphasis given to pedagogical considerations. The levels and volume of learning and teaching occurring online should also be studied. Moreover, future research in this subject should also consider interview data, surveys and questionnaires from lecturers and course designers at USP to understand more about the use of Moodle in courses at USP.
We can conclude that the overall use of Moodle at USP is increasing at a very slow pace. With that, there is an increase in the number of web supported courses but yet the number of web enhanced and web based courses remain very low. There are signs this might slowly change as more lecturers get acquainted with Moodle, build greater understanding of the full pedagogical potential and affordances to use it for a web enhanced or web based classroom. Further exploration, both from the perspective of lecturers and learners, needs to be carried out in this area to fully understand the various levels of use of Moodle at USP.
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Javed Yusuf is an education technologist based at the Centre for Flexible and Distance Learning at the University of South Pacific in Fiji. He is involved in the design and development of courseware for distance, flexible and online delivery. He also plays a leading role in the introduction of new learning technologies and learning design at the University. He has qualifications in computer science, information systems and education technology. His interest lies in educational design for web-delivery, media and digital technologies in education, communications, research, management, evaluation & assessment, and human computer interaction (usability & cognitive processing).