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Student Perceptions of Course Management System Tools: Implications for Evaluation and Adoption of Online Tools in Higher Education

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Given an expectation of digital literacy among students, why should we worry about student perceptions of CMS tools? For the same reason exemplary instructors stay aware of their students’ general learning style preferences—to evolve their teaching styles to meet diverse preferences and maximize learning while also attempting to develop and enhance students’ abilities to learn in different ways. Likewise, knowing the CMS tools that students find most effective establishes an important baseline for understanding student needs that can be addressed not only in a CMS but also through other online systems and services. The University of Florida (UF) conducted a survey investigating that question in spring 2009, during the university’s most recent CMS evaluation and adoption decision to replace the existing CMS. This research bulletin presents the survey results to help inform other institutions with their own evaluation and adoption processes. The information will also benefit instructors looking to maximize their own use of a local CMS and/or to choose tools that enable personal learning environments, as well as specific tools for learning.

Citation for this Work: Douglas Johnson, Tawnya Means, and Randy Graff. “Student Perceptions of Course Management System Tools: Implications for Evaluation and Adoption of Online Tools in Higher Education” (Research Bulletin). Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research, February 28, 2012, available from

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Interesting study, and it raises a lot of questions. Do faculty need to learn how to better use CMS features, or do they not know how (or if) CMS features can enhance pedagogy? Do students rank features low because they are poorly implemented in the CMS, or poorly deployed by faculty, or because students just don't like them? (e.g. what does it mean that "Web Links" are not highly ranked, and how does this differ from Bookmarking? Do students in portfolio-using fields rank that function more highly? Do students rank "self-monitoring" functions highly because they want to see how well they are learning, or because they're obsessed with grades?).

There are some interesting conversations going on about LMS/CMS adoption here, a good companion piece to this study.