A Framework for Designing Learning Management Systems to Support Undergraduate Thesis Projects : With a Focus on Sri Lankan Universities

Abstract: In Sri Lankan public universities about 41000 undergraduate projects are conducted every year, and on average, the total man-hours spent on the thesis projects is about 1.2 million. Although the universities widely use information technology to support teaching and learning, a specific system supporting undergraduate thesis projects is lacking and literature documents many problems related to these projects. Hence, the present research endeavour was commenced in a Sri Lankan university to develop a framework to guide the design process of a Learning Management System (LMS) that can be used to address those problems and support Undergraduate Thesis Projects (UTP). The following three research questions guided the study: 1) What are the problems of UTP? 2) Which learning theories and pedagogical concepts should be considered when designing an LMS to support the UTP? 3) What are the requirements and components of an LMS which would support the UTP? The Soft Design Science Research Methodology was applied to answer three research questions, and the main findings are as follows: 1) Six main problems areas were identified based on a specific case, 2) These problems were related to unsatisfied requirements of student student-supervisor interaction, scaffolding, and self-regulation processes 3) These requirements further analysed using related learning theories and specific problems were condensed into a general problem.  The general problem is the lack of a learning environment that supports the theoretical foundation (pedagogical implications) and practical facilitation (Information and Communication Technology tools), which could support the student-supervisor interaction, scaffolding, and self-regulation processes, 4) The general problem was analysed, comparing the theoretical foundations and pedagogical implications and a framework was suggested as a general solution for designing an LMS with four basic modules. These modules include software subcomponents that can be used to enhance student-supervisor interaction, peer collaboration, students’ self-regulation skills, and students’ motivation, 5) The general solution was evaluated, and it was shown that supervisors accepted the proposed components as parts of an LMS that supports UTP. The findings show that this framework offers features and components that enhance the quality and importance of thesis projects.