Moodle in an Open Distance e-Learning University: Is It a Building or Stumbling Block to Student Interaction and Autonomy?
Keywords:e-learning, modular object-oriented dynamic learning environment, first-year students, open distance e-learning, student experiences; interaction, autonomy, transactional distance
Higher education institutions (HEIs) in Africa are seemingly staggering under the burden of digital division and exclusion. Due to its perceived flexibility and affordability for students in remote areas, distance education is a popular option for many students at HEIs. One of the e-learning tools introduced is a modular object-oriented dynamic learning environment (Moodle) learning management system (LMS), which is designed using web-based applications and provides online learning services to students. The key question remains: how do first-year students experience Moodle? Do they view it as a building block to their learning? Or is it a stumbling block? This article reports on a study that was conducted in a South African open distance e-learning (ODeL) institution with students who speak English as an additional language, in an Academic Writing module. The study used a qualitative case study approach and drew on the theory of transactional distance to understand how Moodle encourages student interaction and autonomy. Although the study findings cannot be generalised on a broader scale, the findings are in line with similar studies, amplifying the critical role of student experiences, interaction, and autonomy in HEIs to bring about the required change.
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