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Abstract

Over the past decade, Web-based learning management systems, such as Blackboard and WebCT, have been gradually integrated into college education. The strategic use and effectiveness of such systems have been investigated to a large extent. What is less covered is what students really think about such learning management systems. Understanding students’ evaluations can shed light on the development, selection, training, maintenance, use, and investment on such systems. In this paper, we report a longitudinal study that uses a bottom-up approach to gather qualitative data on student views of WebCT 6. Data were collected at three distinctive times that spanned two semesters to reflect students’ different experiences in using WebCT 6. Two different methods were used to collect qualitative data so that students could report their views in unconstrained ways. The content analyses results show that (1) students have an integrated view of their technology assisted learning environment, which can be represented by the notion of S-I-A (the system, the instructors and the administrators); (2) as students’ experience with WebCT 6 increases, their complaints and wishes for instructors and administrators increase; (3) communication-related features continuously dominate students’ views about WebCT 6; and (4) as their use of WebCT 6 increases, students grow more appreciative toward WebCT 6 features that support learning activities. The findings contribute to the literature with additional evidence on the nature and effectiveness of learning management systems. They provide a set of suggestions that should be carefully considered by all personnel involved. We identify a number of research implications. One particular research contribution is the identification of a fifth type of interaction that plays an important role in the technology-assisted learning context: the learner-administrator interaction.

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