Refactoring learning management systems for multi-device use in developing countries

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Although learning management systems (LMSs) have been widely adopted by universities in developing countries, their potential to support students' learning has not been fully exploited due to several factors. Some of the factors limiting the more successful implementation of LMSs in developing country universities have been identified and reported in this study. Most importantly, LMS implementation in developing country universities is constrained by limited institutional ICT infrastructures, Internet bandwidth and electricity outages that affect the accessibility of LMS services by the students. The main research question addressed in this study is: How can we better use the available ICTs and ICT infrastructure in developing country universities to enhance the accessibility of the LMS services by students to better support the implementation of LMSs? The research question was addressed through surveys and experimentation. Two surveys were carried out, and the findings of these surveys were useful in: understanding the current state of practice in LMS implementation in developing country universities; defining the problem; understanding the students' LMS expectations and needs; and deciding the nature of the intervention to be implemented. Through the surveys, it was established that the majority of students in the surveyed universities possessed mobile phones, most of which being internet enabled phones. The study therefore explored the possibility of enabling and enhancing mobile access for LMS services so as to enhance students' LMS accessibility through their mobile phones. The design, development, implementation and evaluation of the intervention (the mobile LMS) were achieved through a user-centred development approach that included participatory design, prototyping and user experience evaluation. An impact evaluation of the mobile LMS intervention indicated that: mobile LMS interfaces can lead to students' increased access and use of the LMS through mobile phones; students prefer streamlined mobile LMS interfaces with fewer and block-based services; with streamlined mobile LMS interfaces, students are able to get the LMS services they need on their mobile phones without the need for desktop and laptop computers and without the need for the full desktop LMS interfaces. While the streamlined mobile LMS allows the students an opportunity to more satisfactorily access the LMS services through their mobile phones, it also takes away the pressure from the constrained institutional ICT infrastructure and facilities such as computer laboratories. The design and development process of the mobile LMS intervention highlighted that students' involvement leads to creation of more usable and useful mobile LMS interfaces and that most of the students' mobile LMS needs can be achieved through a cross-platform mobile Web application.

Includes bibliographical references