eBooks and Blackboard (3 Short Papers 0038, 0164, 0167)


11:30 - 12:30 on Tuesday, 7 September 2010 in Room 3a


38 Does the e-book reader make distance learners’ life easier?
Ming Nie, Witthaus Gabi, Barklamb Kelly, Armellini Alejandro


164 Building an e-Book Access Bridge: an outline of a small scale project to provide generic guidance to the publishing industry on accessibility issues
Alistair McNaught, Simon Ball, Shirley Evans


167 How teachers use Blackboard: an institution-wide evaluation study on functionality types, user profiles, and the influence of attitude
Judith Schoonenboom, Linda Mebus, Victor Maijer


38 Does the e-book reader make distance learners’ life easier?
Ming Nie, Witthaus Gabi, Barklamb Kelly, Armellini Alejandro
This presentation reports on the integration of e-book readers into curriculum delivery to enhance the work-based experience of learners studying at a distance. The study is part of a JISC-funded research project called DUCKLING (Delivery University Curricula: Knowledge, Learning and INnovation Gains – http://www.le.ac.uk/duckling/). DUCKLING ran within two distance learning Masters’ programmes in Occupational Psychology and one in Applied Linguistics and TESOL at the University of Leicester in 2009 – 10. Most students on the three programmes are work-based distance learners with specific flexibility requirements. They need course materials presented in formats that lend themselves to easy, clear and reliable access while on the move. To address this challenge, e-book readers preloaded with course materials and podcasts were given to 20 students on the three programmes. The purpose was to investigate whether the e-book readers help in engaging time-poor students with essential readings. DUCKLING made use of action research methodology. Data was collected via a VLE-based survey and interviews. Cognitive mapping (Bryson et al., 2004) was used to capture a unique ‘map’ of a student and his or her views, perceptions and experiences of using the e-book reader. Additional qualitative data was analysed using thematic analysis (Boyatzis, 1998). Initial findings show that students highly valued the portability and flexibility that the e-book reader offers. They used their e-book readers at home, in the office, in public places (such as cafés) and on the move (on a train, bus or plane). Students found the e-readers especially useful to obtain an overview at the start of a module. However, the e-book reader hasn’t changed the way that students study throughout the module. Students reported that they went back to the printed materials when they wanted to study the materials in depth, especially when doing the assignments. This presentation will provide a full picture of the key findings and main challenges identified from this pilot.


164 Building an e-Book Access Bridge: an outline of a small scale project to provide generic guidance to the publishing industry on accessibility issues
Alistair McNaught, Simon Ball, Shirley Evans
Well crafted e-book platforms can offer immensely personalised access to students. If a mainstream product can meet the study needs of disabled students, the organisation can support students more effectively and comply with disability legislation more easily (Newland et al. 2009). JISC and The Publisher's Licensing Society funded a small scale project to create good practice guidance based on the benefits and barriers identified by robust testing using real people with disabilities. A range of access technologies were used including keyboard only; mouse only; voice recognition only and screen reader only. In addition colour, contrast, low vision issues and accessibility statements were also examined. Each tester was asked to complete a series of tests that replicated typical student activities such as logging on to the platform, browsing to a book and extracting a quote. Nine platforms were tested. An e-Book Access Bridge model was developed to illustrate the stages involved in accessing an e-book. The stages ranged through navigating to the instructional learning platform, opening an e-book and exporting quotes to an assignment. Analysis of the data indicated three types of barriers: perceptual barriers were those where the users were unable to find a feature that was both present and accessible to their technology, examples included text zooming and changing font colours; usability barriers occurred where access was possible but impractical - browsing to a book and reading three pages took over 100 keystrokes on two platforms; technological barriers were due to incompatibilities between thee-book platform and the user's assistive technology - e.g. text not being readable by their screen reader. The research enabled the project team to develop guidelines for making e-books accessible. It also provided a starting point from which a wide range of stakeholders including publishers, educationalists, and librarians, can develop new knowledge of the issues, a common purpose in resolving them and new skills to apply to emerging technologies. In conclusion there are no serious technical reasons why e-book platforms should not revolutionise access to text for disabled students and in the process give a much enhanced experience for all users.


167 How teachers use Blackboard: an institution-wide evaluation study on functionality types, user profiles, and the influence of attitude
Judith Schoonenboom, Linda Mebus, Victor Maijer
In 2009, VU University Amsterdam, a research university in the Netherlands with approximately 23,000 students, conducted an institution-wide evaluation of attitudes towards its VLE Blackboard system and how much use is made of it. This paper presents the evaluation’s principal findings that relate to university teachers. An online questionnaire was filled in by 341 teachers (21% of the total). Factor analyses were used to identify the underlying constructs. Several multi-level models were tested with departments as clusters. A cluster analysis was performed on the log files for teacher usage during the most recent semester. Supplementary interviews were held with 13 teachers from 10 of the university’s 14 departments. The functionalities of Blackboard fall into four categories: providing information, handling assignments, administering tests, and facilitating group work. The log files reveal one category of basic users who use Blackboard mainly for providing information, and three categories of more advanced users who make use of various additional functionalities. The relationship between the following constructs was investigated: satisfaction: attitudes to working in Blackboard and satisfaction with the results; motivation: the use of Blackboard due to the expectations of others (external motivation), and/or due to its perceived role in improving teaching quality (internal motivation); barriers: the perceived difficulty of using Blackboard and the amount of assistance needed. Initial results indicate that internal motivation is a decisive factor. Although external motivation influences the number of courses in which Blackboard is used, it has no influence whatsoever beyond this. Internal motivation influences both satisfaction and barriers, and it is the only construct that impacts on the intensity of Blackboard use. This study confirms and refines the existing divisions of VLE functionalities. It shows that internal motivation, which was part of the original Theory of Planned Behaviour, but not of the widely used Technology Acceptance Model, cannot be ignored. It is internal motivation, rather than ease of use, which influences the adoption of technology. Furthermore, results indicate that the decision of teachers to use technology is more rational than often assumed, as it is largely determined by the extent to which they expect their teaching to improve by using Blackboard.