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Course Management Systems Selection Using AHP Method

Billy Mathias Kalema Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria South Africa

The evolution of Information Technology (IT) and the increasing need to adopt elearning in the classroom environment has led to an exponential increase in the production of e-learning tools. The desire to produce a better e-learning tool to manage learners and their learning content has not only caused stiff competition on the IT market, but also a dilemma of which tool to be applied, when and where. Universities have been at a forefront in the acquisition and implementation of these e-learning tools. This is because the diverse nature of teaching at a university level necessitates instructors to use course management systems (CMS) which are e-learning tools for effective and real time delivery means of supporting teaching. The use of CMS in teaching and learning enhances the traditional classroom teaching with better communication and assessment methods. It also helps to bridge the geographical gap between the rural poor and the urban rich students. Moreover, with the increasing CMS available and the different information technology (IT) background of the instructors, students find themselves in crossroads when selecting which CMS to use as different lecturers may use different CMS for communication. Some universities have implemented more than one CMS while others have leveraged on the free social networking software to use in this regard. The selection of an appropriate CMS like in the case of many other software tools is often approached using an adhoc process. In many instances this has been done basing on IT managers perception, preference, intuition, or marketing hype. These nonrigorous selection methods not only cause poor and erroneous results but also rejection and resistance by the users to the system that is being introduced. This study presents a model for selecting a CMS by using the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP). The AHP is a multi-criteria decision support method that can be used to analyze and compare between different CMS and presents the results that are used to make a better choice. It provides a flexible and systematic evaluation approach that can be applied in the selection process of CMS to come up with a more appropriate system. In the selection process essential factors are identified and the systems are ranked in the order of how best they score with these factors. This paper contributes on the literature of acceptance and use of e-learning tools. On the other hand, the developed framework may be applied by university administrators and IT personnel to make informed decisions for selecting appropriate CMS that are relevant to the African learners context. This will in turn ease the implementation process and provide business value for the acquired systems. This study is informed by sample CMS of; MyTutor, Electronic Campus, Facebook and ATutor.

Problem Statement
Much as it is important to consider which tools in this evolutionary chain represent the particular needs of the society, this has not been the case. Most CMS are designed in the context of the developed countries making them have little benefit to the learners in developing countries especially those in Africa. Many learners in the African universities come from unprivileged background and start using IT at the university level. Besides the fact that many of these learners use English as the second or third language, the features of many of these CMS are not contextualized to fit the needs of these learners. They struggle to navigate the system cause ineffective usage and biasness and in the end poor performance especially for those courses where the instructors or lecturers requires the students to submit their coursework online or where learners are required to write online assessments and tests. This leads to poor grades, low pass rates and throughput and has been a major cause for faculties to abandon CMS on which the universities spend huge sums of money to acquire.

Research Objectives
This study aims to select the most appropriate CMS after some analysis for the final decision by using a technique with analytic hierarchy process (AHP). This study examines these CMS relative to the students' perceived ease of use, relative advantage, individual factors, social factors and compatibility and how their perception can stimulate their behavioural intention to use them.

The AHP- Based Approach

AHP approach decomposes a complex multi-criteria decision problem into a hierarchy (Saaty, 1980, 1990, 1994). It helps in the prioritization of the factors that follow in the hierarchy and provides a consistency judgmental to the decision makers. AHP is widely used in the application of diverse array of problems by using the pair-wise comparison matrix. Before the AHP approach is applied, a goal is set. In this case AHP hierarchy, our goal is to develop model of a contextualized CMS suitable for developing countries learning environment. The factors, perceived ease of use, relative advantage, individual factors, social factors and compatibility that are used for the contextualization forms the selection criteria at the subsidiary level. The indicators of each of these factors then form the last criterion level.

The optimization model for this research was achieved through the following steps:a) Evaluation of the criteria and sub-criteria used in the study; b) Establishment of the hierarchical structure;

c) Formation of the pair-wise comparison matrix; d) Calculation of eigenvalue and eigenvector; e) Establishment of the results for both the consistency test and the consistence ratio that helps to make the comparison matrix of the factors e-learning tools being examined. The values indicated consistence since their consistence ratios are all < 0.1. f) Estimation of the relative weight and their calculations.

Discussion of Results
The global weights the four different CMS alternative packages were calculated by synthesizing and combining the weights of criteria with the weights of sub-criteria and weights of CMSs. An individual CMS with a higher score is ranked high for preference and recommended to be fitting the learners context. This study found that students prefer Electronic Campus to be easy to use and more compatible than the three other CMS. However, results shows that much as students would like to use Facebook for social networking they found its relative advantage to be to low as compared to other CMS. This is because many agreed that when they are logged in on Facebook their interest will be more inclined to chatting other than learning. The ranking scores of ATutor were very low as compared to the other CMS. This is more likely to be that ATutor was introduced as the case study for this work many students were not familiar with it as the case of MyTutor and Electronic campus. As with factors, this study found perceived ease of use to be playing a major role in students choice to select a CMS for use. This was followed by relative advantage and compatibility.

Conclusion and Recommendation

This study demonstrates how a CMS may be contextualized to fit the learners environment by using the AHP technique. We considered five relevant factors that were set as the criteria in making the decision based on the four CMSs selected for this study. This study recommends that more factors may be added to fit the learners environment as the one considered inhere may not be very exhaustive as were only chosen to illustrate the process. The AHP approach facilitates the decision makers to identify the major alternatives of the CMS so that the CMS may be selected relative to others available choices. Therefore, this study established a framework in which this may be achieved. Hence, this paper contributes by providing useful guidelines as a structured and logical means of synthesizing judgments for evaluating appropriate CMS.