Virtual Learning Environments in Higher Education : A Study of User Acceptance

University dissertation from Institutionen för ekonomisk och industriell utveckling

Abstract: The aim of the thesis was to create knowledge about factors influencing acceptance of virtual learning environments among academic staff and students in blended learning environments. The aim was operationalised by four research questions. To answer the research questions, several studies were performed applying the methods of survey study, conceptual-analytical research, a qualitative meta-analysis combined with a single case study and a comparative, explanatory case study. The empirical studies were performed at five universities in Sweden, Norway and Lithuania. In the thesis, a technology acceptance perspective extended with the perspectives of organisational learning and diffusion of innovations was used. The findings indicated that the contextual factor of culture was powerful in influencing acceptance of virtual learning environments, positively as well as negatively. High degrees of performance expectancy, results demonstrability and social influence affected acceptance of virtual learning environments positively. The degree of social influence was hypothesised to be mediated by the contextual factor of culture. The organisational culture of universities, expressed as shared values of what is good quality teaching and learning, were found to partly oppose values inherent in the virtual learning environments. The factor of students’ learning styles did not have any impact on acceptance of virtual learning environments. The original version of the technology acceptance model was found to be insufficient in explaining differences in acceptance of virtual learning environments. In the conclusions of the thesis, a descriptive and explanatory model of virtual learning environments acceptance among academic staff and students in blended learning environments is presented applying the combined perspectives of organisational learning, technology acceptance and diffusion of innovations. Implications for practice are put forward, emphasizing culture as an important factor to consider in the implementation of virtual learning environments.

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