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Student perceptions of Web-based learning.


This study investigates the students' attitudes towards the e-learning environment and its effects on the teaching and learning process. We note a general positive attitude towards the online learning environment although there was no significant difference in student results. However, the current e-learning environment does not really cater for individual preferences of students.


The Information Technology (IT) sector is a rapidly expanding business in Mauritius and the Government is investing massively to make it become the third pillar of the Mauritian economy. In this endeavour of making Mauritius a cyber-island, emphasis is laid on life-long education and training to keep up with the technological pace at which the global economies are moving. With the limited capacity of students accommodation at the University of Mauritius and the need for highly skilled man-power to sustain the development of the country, the Virtual Centre for Innovative Learning Technologies (VCILT VCILT Virtual Centre for Innovative Learning Technologies ) has been created to deliver high-quality e-learning. In this paper, we carry out an evaluation of students' perceptions, responses and reactions to the current e-learning environment that has been set-up at the University. The students are undergraduates in the first year of study. We find that, although our current e-learning environment helps to promote technology-enhanced and networked learning (through different computer-mediated tools), it seems that student preferences for learning are overlooked in the design of courseware materials.

Review of Literature

Distance education is flexible and adaptable in that learners can study anywhere and anytime. The notion of flexibility and autonomy has been seen to denote de·note  
tr.v. de·not·ed, de·not·ing, de·notes
1. To mark; indicate: a frown that denoted increasing impatience.

 independence among distance learners. Garison and Shale (1990) however, postulate postulate: see axiom.  that the notion of independence in the educational transaction in distance education seems to overshadow o·ver·shad·ow  
tr.v. o·ver·shad·owed, o·ver·shad·ow·ing, o·ver·shad·ows
1. To cast a shadow over; darken or obscure.

2. To make insignificant by comparison; dominate.
 two-way communication Two-way communication is a form of transmission in which both parties involved transmit information. Common forms of two-way communication are:
  • In-person communication
  • Telephone conversations
  • Amateur, CB or FRS radio contacts
  • Computer networks . See back-channel.
 between the teacher and the student. On the other hand, E-learning providing a framework for networked and technology-enhanced learning Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) is any learning situation involving the use of technology. Technology used need not be computer technology, but this is often the case. Branches of TEL include CALL (Computer-Assisted Language Learning), although the latter term is often used to  on the web must not be looked upon as only a new medium of delivery but one that presents us with a high potential to enhance the overall learning process (Nichols, 2003). The ability of e-learning systems to support hypermedia hypermedia: see hypertext.

The use of hyperlinks, regular text, graphics, audio and video to provide an interactive, multimedia presentation. All the various elements are linked, enabling the user to move from one to another.
 contributes in efficient delivery and better quality of education. There have been some critiques that many developers of education web-based materials have a tendency to use the Web in traditional ways (Hong et al., 2003). Consequently, the resulting learning environments often appear as electronic versions of traditional courses. Hong et al. (2003) reports several findings from research on students' satisfaction in web-based learning environments. However, many studies also reported no difference in leaning achievement between students taking Web-based courses and students enrolled in traditional face-to-face classes (Carswell, 2000; Collins, 2000; Santally, 2003). Carswell (2000) found that students felt they gained valuable experience in using the Internet and its associated tools for communication purposes in a web-based course. Although this was not an integral part of the course objectives, students welcomed the additional skills acquired.

The Problem

Since e-learning is quite a novel approach in the Mauritian context, this study is of a very important nature to determine the acceptance of this new learning methodology among the stakeholders Stakeholders

All parties that have an interest, financial or otherwise, in a firm-stockholders, creditors, bondholders, employees, customers, management, the community, and the government.
; especially the students who are going to experience this novel approach for the first time and the University Academics who have always worked to keep up a with a high standard of education. The research questions we want to address in this study are: (1) What are the students' attitudes towards e-learning and using the Internet as a tool for the learning process? (2) What are students attitudes towards the current e-learning environment in the University in terms of: Achievement of Learning Outcomes; Flexibility in their learning; Proficiency in ICT (1) (Information and Communications Technology) An umbrella term for the information technology field. See IT.

(2) (International Computers and Tabulators) See ICL.

1. (testing) ICT - In Circuit Test.
 (Information and Communication Technologies); Learning and Cognitive Styles Cognitive style is a term used in cognitive psychology to describe the way individuals think, perceive and remember information, or their preferred approach to using such information to solve problems. ; Performance in the exams; Accessibility to the environment (3) Were students' attitudes towards the use of networked learning tools positive and perceived as a means to enhance their learning? (4) Are students willing to use such environments for a major part of their programme at the University? Students data, 2003-04, was collected online <>.

The CSE (Certified Systems Engineer) See Microsoft certification. 1010E Learning Environment

The CSE 1010E was initially delivered through print-based distance education mode and it became the first module to be delivered online at the University of Mauritius on a very large scale (~1000 students). The CSE 1010E module has now been delivered without any major problems, for approximately two academic years. Students have access to an online study guide (also available in print format) where they have access to an instructional plan that helps them in their learning. The contents section provides students with a multimedia learning material arranged in a hypertext hypertext, technique for organizing computer databases or documents to facilitate the nonsequential retrieval of information. Related pieces of information are connected by preestablished or user-created links that allow a user to follow associative trails across the  structure that helps them to understand concepts easily. Furthermore, students have access to discussion forums where they can collaborate with peers and tutors about concepts and topics related to their module.

The Learning/Cognitive Styles Survey We carried out two surveys in this phase: Learning Styles and Perceptual Styles. The learning style survey is based on the Honey and Mumford (1986) questionnaire that classifies learners in four types of categories: reflector reflector: see telescope. , activist, pragmatist prag·ma·tism  
1. Philosophy A movement consisting of varying but associated theories, originally developed by Charles S. Peirce and William James and distinguished by the doctrine that the meaning of an idea or a proposition lies in
 and theorist the·o·rist  
One who theorizes; a theoretician.

a person who forms theories or who specializes in the theory of a particular subject.
See also: Ideas, Learning

Noun 1.
. The Perceptual Styles Survey is carried out to find out about learners preferred sensory ways of information processing information processing: see data processing.
information processing

Acquisition, recording, organization, retrieval, display, and dissemination of information. Today the term usually refers to computer-based operations.
 i.e. whether learners prefer information to be presented orally (auditory auditory /au·di·to·ry/ (aw´di-tor?e)
1. aural or otic; pertaining to the ear.

2. pertaining to hearing.

), visually or in a kinaesthetic Kin`aes`thet´ic

a. 1. Of, pertaining to, or involving, kinaesthesia.

Adj. 1. kinaesthetic - of or relating to kinesthesis
 form. We also investigate any relationship that exists between students learning styles and perceptual styles. The effects these styles have on students' performance are also studied as well as their perceptions towards the e-learning environment.

The Feedback Questionnaire Student feedback questionnaire has been a common practise for institutions and educators to evaluate and constantly improve the quality of teaching and learning. This method is also very useful in evaluating distance-learning environments especially web-based systems. The questionnaire we used in the study was divided into four sections:

Background Information. The students' age, gender, Programme of study, ownership of a computer related information was asked in this section. Students were also asked to give their virtual campus login Signing in and gaining access to a network server, Web server or other computer system. The process (the noun) is a "login" or "logon," while the act of doing it (the verb) is to "log in" or to "log on.  to be able to identify their preferences with their learning, perceptual styles and their performance.

Content and didactics. In this section, students had to evaluate the contents of the course in line with the learning objectives proposed to them and their own expectations from the course. They were asked to evaluate the use of images, text and animations in the module. Their perceptions of these objects are very important to see how different learners respond to the system features.

Multimedia Presentation and communication. In this section, students were asked to rate the text readability, image, sound and video quality and the ease of use of the environment. Students' perceptions about the use of forums were also recorded in this section and the ease of use of the communication tools. Students were also asked whether they are willing to follow other modules online and whether they are willing to have a majority number of modules from their curriculum online as well as their own perception about whether computers increased their motivation and confidence throughout the learning process.

Technical Aspects of Environment. Students were asked about navigation aspects of the learning environment, online help standards, flexibility of access to the environment, delivery speed and ease of downloads and frequency of use of the platform.

Student Assessment and Performance data

Performance of students who took part in the survey was measured in three assessments throughout the semester se·mes·ter  
One of two divisions of 15 to 18 weeks each of an academic year.

[German, from Latin (cursus) s
. The first assessment consisted of students producing a word report of approximately 2000-3000 words on the comparison of two computer systems and recommendations for the purchase of one of these systems. Students were graded on three criteria--use of word processing word processing, use of a computer program or a dedicated hardware and software package to write, edit, format, and print a document. Text is most commonly entered using a keyboard similar to a typewriter's, although handwritten input (see pen-based computer) and  techniques, comparison of the two systems and the quality of the recommendation. The second assessment was a common class test that was carried out in the middle of the semester and the final assessment was the examinations that took place at the end of the semester. The first assessment and the class test each count for 15 %, while the final exam Noun 1. final exam - an examination administered at the end of an academic term
final examination, final

exam, examination, test - a set of questions or exercises evaluating skill or knowledge; "when the test was stolen the professor had to make a new set of
 counts for 70% of the whole module mark.


From the Learning style survey (n=102), we find that the first year students have a tendency to prefer the reflector learning styles while many students prefer more than one learning style. On average, 52% of students are reflectors, while 22% are activists; 11% and 13% are theorists and pragmatists respectively. We also find 48% of learners preferring to process visual information, 36% auditory and 16% preferring kinaesthetic and tactile tactile /tac·tile/ (tak´til) pertaining to touch.

1. Perceptible to the sense of touch; tangible.

2. Used for feeling.

 instruction. However, from the two-way ANOVA anova

see analysis of variance.

ANOVA Analysis of variance, see there
 test, we found no significant relationship with a student's particular learning style with his perceptual (cognitive) styles. These differed from student to student. For instance, a student may be a reflector but he prefers kinaesthetic activities. This seems strange but our study shows that this is possible although this can also form part of experimental error. There was also no significant difference in results (p=0.613) of students who used the e-learning system for the module compared to a control group who followed the module in a traditional distance setting (i.e. print-based material). The same observation applies to the results of students based on learning and cognitive style preferences. Another finding of this research study is about students' views of the current e-learning modules that are being delivered on-campus. Students generally like the idea of having online modules. They feel this gives them much more flexibility to learn the module and at their own pace.

There is a minority of students (mostly mature learners), however, who are concerned with their own level of proficiency in information technology, access to computers and the Internet. They also find that the courses are generally of static nature and they would prefer print the pages rather than read the whole lot of text online. Furthermore, they do not find that online modules help them in performing better or make the learning process seem easier for them. On the other hand, the idea of having an online course, especially for the first time increased their eagerness and motivation to participate in the class. They particularly found the networked learning environment stimulating since they felt to be "in permanent contact with peers and tutors". From the study and a description of the results, we may summarize our findings as follows. Students in general, prefer the reflector learning style. However, we also find students with other learning styles or with more than one learning style. Students prefer mostly the visual and auditory mode of perception than the kinaesthetic mode. There is no significant relationship (interaction) between preferred learning styles and the cognitive styles. This is based mainly on an individual basis for each learner. Computer-based learning does not necessarily increase student performance on the exams. However, there is increase motivation and preference of the students to learn with computers. Students do not prefer to read online, they would rather print the materials, which are mostly static pages although graphics are present. Reproducing print based material online therefore is not seen as adding value to the student learning experience and to the overall learning process.


Our study showed a preference for the visual mode of perception and we find a majority of students saying that they prefer to print material from the web site since there is a lot a text. In fact, research demonstrates that both low and average achievers earn higher scores on standardized standardized

pertaining to data that have been submitted to standardization procedures.

standardized morbidity rate
see morbidity rate.

standardized mortality rate
see mortality rate.
 achievement tests and aptitude tests The following organizations provide aptitude and proficiency tests in programming and computer topics.

Berger Series
A set of proficiency and aptitude tests from Psychometrics, Inc., Henderson, NV (
 when taught through their learning styles preferences (Dunn et al., 1995). While it is true that students nowadays have a tendency of becoming more independent and more motivated to use networked learning tools, taking into account their individual learning preferences could be an important factor in improving the teaching and learning process. Furthermore, average achievers tend to have poor auditory memory auditory memory The ability to remember words and sounds. See Memory. . They learn better through graphics and animations rather than text (Dunn, 1998). A recent trend in education literature has been to generally accept that hypermedia can accommodate learning style differences because of the multi-modal attributes that are involved (Ayersman & Minden, 1995). However, Litchfield (1993) (as cited in Ayersman & Minden, 1995) admitted that research specifically addressing multimedia programs and learning styles is almost inexistent in·ex·is·tent  
Having no existence; nonexistent.

inex·istence n.
. One of the advantages of web-based hypermedia is that it provides the same material (hosted on a web server) for all students. This advantage says it clearly that we are catering to a group of learners (that can easily range up to thousands) and it is assuming that we cater for all learning preferences. Having a variety of learning preferences and catering for individual differences are different things. Adaptive web-based hypermedia may be a step towards offering individualized instruction Individualized instruction is a method of instruction in which content, instructional materials, instructional media, and pace of learning are based upon the abilities and interests of each individual learner.  to students.

The problem with mature learners, however, cannot be linked only to one of learning and perceptual (cognitive) preferences. To a certain extent, it can be true. In this ease we cannot generalise v. 1. same as generalize.

Verb 1. generalise - speak or write in generalities

mouth, speak, talk, verbalise, verbalize, utter - express in speech; "She talks a lot of nonsense"; "This depressed patient does not verbalize"
 our findings of learning and perceptual (cognitive) preferences to apply these for web-based environments. Furthermore there was no obvious difference between learning preferences of mature learners and young adults. The problem may therefore relate to other social and professional obligations of the learners. Proficiency of using the computers and prior information technology background may also be a deterministic 1. (probability) deterministic - Describes a system whose time evolution can be predicted exactly.

Contrast probabilistic.
2. (algorithm) deterministic - Describes an algorithm in which the correct next step depends only on the current state.
 factor in the promotion of technology acceptance among learners. The fact that students showed increased motivation and eagerness to follow the course online using a computer-based environment may have an important positive psychological effect on the students since this helps create a feeling of confidence and social adherence to the current trend. This aligns well with the idea of the School IT Project and the vision of making Mauritius a cyber (1) From "cybernetics," it is a prefix attached to everyday words to add a computer, electronic or online connotation. The term is similar to "virtual," but the latter is used more frequently. See virtual.  island where ICT is being integrated through the school curriculum and in other key sectors of the Mauritian Economy.


We find in this study that we have a variety of learners in a classroom and that learning and cognitive styles may be important variables that we need to study further along with student perceptions and attitudes. As we have seen in this study, students mostly adopted a positive attitude towards web-based learning environments. The reasons behind this is mainly ownership of computers, proficiency in ICT and the feel of an urge to form part in the ICT bandwagon band·wag·on  
1. An elaborately decorated wagon used to transport musicians in a parade.

2. Informal A cause or party that attracts increasing numbers of adherents:
 as part of the Government vision of making Mauritius a cyber island. From a purely educational point of view, we find the need to reconsider the design of such environments for a variety of learning paths based on individual learning preferences of students.


Ayersman D.J., & Minden A. (1995). Individual differences, computers and instruction. Computers in human behaviour, 11(3-4), 371-390.

Carswell, L.(2000). Distance Education via the Internet: The student experience. British Journal of Educational Technology, 31(1), 29-46

Collins, M. (2000). Comparing Web, correspondence and lecture versions of a second-year non-major biology course. British Journal of Educational Technology, 31(1), 21-27

Dunn R., Griggs S Griggs may refer to:
  • Nigel Griggs
  • Andy Griggs
  • Sutton E. Griggs
  • Bill Griggs
  • Griggs County
  • Mount Griggs
Fictional character
  • Griggs, The Strangerhood
.A., Olson J., Gorman B., & Beasley M. (1995). A Meta Analytic validation of the Dunn and Dunn learning styles model. Journal of Educational Research, 88(6), 353-361.

Dunn R. (1998). Commentary: Teaching Students through their perceptual strengths or preferences. Journal of Reading. 31(4), 304-309.

Garrison, D. & Shale, D. (1990). Education at a distance: From issues to practice, Melbourne, FL: Krieger, 123-134

Hong K. S, Lai K. W & Holton, D. (2003). Students' satisfaction and perceived learning with a web-based course. Educational Technology & Society, 6(1), ISSN ISSN
International Standard Serial Number

Honey P., Mumford A (1986). Using your learning styles. Maidenhead Maidenhead, city (1991 pop. 59,809), Windsor and Maidenhead, S central England, on the Thames River. It is a residential town with brewing and milling industries as well as a resort. The 13th-century stone bridge was rebuilt in the 1770s. . Honey Publications

Litchfield, B. (1993). Design factors in multimedia experiments: Research findings and implications for instructional design Instructional design is the practice of arranging media (communication technology) and content to help learners and teachers transfer knowledge most effectively. The process consists broadly of determining the current state of learner understanding, defining the end goal of . Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association The American Educational Research Association, or AERA, was founded in 1916 as a professional organization representing educational researchers in the United States and around the world. , Atlanta, GA.

Nichols, M. (2003). A theory for eLearning. Educational Technology & Society, 6(2), 1-10, Available at

Santally, M. (2003). Learning and Perceptual Styles Consideration in the Design of Hypo-media Courseware for Distance Learning. ICOOL ICOOL International Conference on Open and Online Learning  (International Conference on Open & Online Learning) 2003 Proceedings, Mauritius

Mohammad I. Santally, University of Mauritius, Mauritius

Santally works as Instructional Designer in the Virtual Center for Innovative Learning Technologies <>.
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Author:Santally, Mohammad I.
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2004
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