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2011 International Transaction Journal of Engineering, Management, & Applied Sciences & Technologies.

International Transaction Journal of Engineering, Management, & Applied Sciences & Technologies http://www.TuEngr.com, http://go.to/Research

Validating Measurements of Perceived Ease Comprehension and Ease of Navigation of an Online Learning Technology: Improving Web Based Learning Tool Adoption and Use
Bangaly KABA
a

a*

Schools of Business, International Relations and Economic Policy (BIREP), International University of Grand-Bassam, IVORY COAST
A B S T RA C T

ARTICLEINFO
Article history: Received 21 March 2011 Received in revised form 27 May 2011 Accepted 31 May 2011 Available online 01 June 2011 Keywords:

Technology; Acceptance; Model; WebCT (Web course tools); Measurement; E-learning.

Many universities are realizing that the implementation and use of online learning tool become a competitive advantage to address the actual learning needs. The purpose of this study is to determine the factors that influence users perceived ease of use of Webct an online learning tool. We administrated a questionnaire to undergraduate students from an university in Quebec, Canada. The results tend to corroborate that ease of comprehension and ease of navigation are the key factors which influence the perceived ease of use of WebCT. More specifically, the terms used in educational web applications must be as simple and relevant as possible. Jargon and technical terms in the wording of text used for links should be carefully avoided. This research is extending the finding of IT adoption studies by specifying what make an online tool easy to use.
2011 International Transaction Journal of Engineering, Management, & Applied Sciences & Technologies. Some Rights Reserved.

1. Introduction
Recently, following the example of other organizations, a large number of universities have been giving primary importance to the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), allocating substantial resources to their acquisition. ICTs are used on a
*Corresponding author (Bangaly KABA). Tel/Fax: +225 21 30 34 57 Ext. 111 E-mail addresses: 2011. International Transaction Journal of Engineering, kbangaly@hotmail.com. Management, & Applied Sciences & Technologies. Volume 2 No.3. ISSN 2228-9860. eISSN 1906-9642. Online Available at http://TuEngr.com/V02/287-301.pdf

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daily basis in universities to build students and employees databases, to carry out statistical analyses, to conduct refined bibliographical research, to send e-mails, to permit multimedia animation in classrooms, etc. (Bradley et al., 2006; Mbarika et al., 2003a, 2003b). In addition to these uses, ICTs have become the preferred media for distance learning services (Mbarika, 2004), thus considerably reducing temporal and spatial constraints (geographical disparities). The current trend is for distance learning to become an option for a great number of instructors to respond to the new needs of students.

The investments made in order to acquire, implement and use ICT for educational purposes should be expected to result in positive impacts for the quality of instruction. More specifically, these investments should materialize in the form of increased productivity, a reduction in transaction costs, and therefore; in improved performance (Goodhue et al. 2000; Mathieson, 1991).

Many models have allowed researchers to determine and measure the factors involved in the adoption of a technological innovation (Goodhue et al., 2000; Mathieson, 1991; Taylor and Todd, 1995). Among these, Davis (1989)s technology acceptance model (TAM) figures as a classic in the field of the adoption of technological innovations. TAM is generally referred to as the most influential and commonly employed theoretical model in information systems research (Lee et al. 2003). This theory is of particular interest in explaining user behavior with regard to IT. TAM has been consistently validated by a number of empirical studies (Davis et al., 1989; Kwon and Chidambaram, 2000; Mathieson, 1991; Taylor and Todd, 1995; Venkatesh et al., 2003).

However, since most of these studies aim to test the model, opportunities for the information systems and information technology (IS/IT) community to contribute become more and more restricted if serious theoretical modifications are not made to the fundamental model. At least two possible criticisms of TAM can be made. First, TAM is a generalized theory which does not always seem to take into account particular types of technological innovations. In fact, the process of acceptance depends upon the nature of the IT (Igbaria, 1994; Mahler and Rogers 2000; Markus, 1997). Secondly, TAM fails to provide useful explanations which could help those who design or manufacture IT to increase the level of acceptance of their products by end users (Venkatesh and Davis, 2000, Benbasat and Barki, 2007). 288
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This situation considerably limits the practical application of TAM (Benbasat and Barki, 2007). In light of this finding, we intend in this study to validate new scales of measurement of the ease of use of WebCT, which is a course management system for online learning.

This study based on technology acceptance model (TAM) is initiated to validate the measurement of the factor that influence users perceived ease of use of WebcT in order to enhance our understanding of online learning tools use. TAM stated that easier is to use a system or a technology high is the probability of its adoption and use. Unfortunately, the model does not indicate what make practically a technology easy to use. Our main research question is: what are the practical factors or measures which could be considered as alternative of users perceived ease of use? We consider that perceived ease of comprehension and perceived ease of navigation as good alternatives which could serve as measurements of the ease of use of WebCT even other online learning tools. Before outlining the conceptual framework of this study, we consider it is useful to present the characteristics and the attractions of WebCT which may be unfamiliar to the general public.

2. OverviewofWebCT
Among internet and Web-based applications for online courseware, WebCT emerges as a leader (Clark, 2002). This application was designed by the information systems department of the University of British Columbia about a decade ago. Since then, the functionality of WebCT has constantly improved, and it is now used by more than 2,200 institutions in more than 70 countries (WebCT, 2005). WebCT is a powerful tool for the creation of a distance learning environment. It provides a complete set of tools for the delivery of an online course (Palloff and Pratt, 2001 ; Mioduser et al. 2000). Once instructors and students become familiar with the software, it can be used for e-learning. WebCT offers the possibility of synchronous and asynchronous communication, sending e-mails, file sharing, student evaluations, access to course materials, and access to outside resources dedicated to learning.

3. TheoreticalFramework
Chris et al. (2004) emphasize the importance of the online knowledge management tools user interface as a critical factor for its adoption and for online learning. Indeed, as a link
*Corresponding author (Bangaly KABA). Tel/Fax: +225 21 30 34 57 Ext. 111 E-mail addresses: 2011. International Transaction Journal of Engineering, kbangaly@hotmail.com. Management, & Applied Sciences & Technologies. Volume 2 No.3. ISSN 2228-9860. eISSN 1906-9642. Online Available at http://TuEngr.com/V02/287-301.pdf

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between the user and the system, the user interface allows a reduction of effort by making the navigation among the different components of the system easier. The success of an online application also relies upon the terminology used. The terminology of a system refers to all words, phrases, and abbreviations it uses (Lindgaard, 1994). For example, a frequent problem with online courseware systems has to do with the technical jargon used. This jargon includes technical or professional vocabularies with which general users are often unfamiliar. In such cases, great effort must be made by end users in order to utilize the system to its full potential. A clear and comprehensible terminology can thus reduce the effort necessary to master the system and to make users more productive. Consequently, it may be concluded that clarity of terminology is a good measurement of perceived ease of use. Davis et al. (1989) states that a technology or a system designed in such a way as to allow its potential user to expend little time or energy (avoiding the constant need to refer to the users manual or to contact the provider for help, etc.) will encounter few obstacles to its adoption. These authors predict that the more a technology is perceived to be easy to use, the greater the likelihood of its adoption. According to Davis et al. (1989), ease of use corresponds to the degree to which a person believes that using a new IT will be easy. It is measured by the following three indicators using Likert scales: the technology is easy to master, the technology is user-friendly, the technology, in general, is easy to use. These measurements are for general purposes and do not always appear to take into account the specific characteristics of a given type of technology. This lack of specificity is susceptible to make the task of IS designers more arduous when it comes time to determine the specific aspects of the system which could influence users perceptions. The previous shortcoming has led Moore and Benbasat (1991) to argue that one of the problems facing the theories related to the adoption of technological innovations is the lack of valid, trustworthy instruments to measure users perceptions in the context of adoption of these innovations. Our intent in the current study is to identify and validate measurements of the perception of ease of use which takes into account the features of a specific technological innovation, which is WebCT. The concept of ease of use is generally used in the literature on user acceptance of 290
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technology and on user behavior. As previously mentioned, Davis et al. (1989) identify ease of use as one of the important determinants of the use of ICTs. Davis (1989) suggests that the perceived ease of use can in fact determine the perceived usefulness. Mathieson (1991) and Szajna (1996) report that ease of use accounts in large part for variations in perceived usefulness. Therefore, in light of the aforementioned contributions, we can assert that a better comprehension of the measurements of ease of use of WebCT constitutes a worthwhile domain to investigate, because it could have a beneficial effect on the other determinants of ICT success. Inspired by the study of Lederer et al. (2000), we propose in the current research, the ease of comprehension and the ease of navigation as alternative measurements of WebCTs ease of use. However, unlike Lederer et al. (2000), we consider that these two variables are rather measurements of perceived ease of use, not the antecedents. After having pinpointed the various theoretical contributions that are relevant to our analysis, the next section focuses on the methodology adopted in this research.

4. Methodology
4.1 QuestionnaireDevelopment
The data for this study was collected through a questionnaire survey that was divided into different sections. Each section was devoted to each variable of the research model: Task characteristics, group characteristics, facilitating conditions, social influence, and the intention of the users. A seven-point Likert scale, where 1 indicates strongly disagree and 7 strongly agree (see questionnaire in appendix) was used to measure the latent variables used in the study, with the exception of socio-demographic factors. These latent variables included: perceived ease of use, perceived ease of comprehension, perceived ease of navigation, perceived competency, computer anxiety, technical support and user help, and experience using the internet. Variables measurements were inspired by Lederer et al. (2000) and Davis et al. (1989), and adapted to the context of this study. Each variables was measured using multiple items. Aside from demographic factors, the present analysis is only concerned with two variables, perceived ease of use and ease of navigation. In the following section we present the results obtained by our analysis.
*Corresponding author (Bangaly KABA). Tel/Fax: +225 21 30 34 57 Ext. 111 E-mail addresses: 2011. International Transaction Journal of Engineering, kbangaly@hotmail.com. Management, & Applied Sciences & Technologies. Volume 2 No.3. ISSN 2228-9860. eISSN 1906-9642. Online Available at http://TuEngr.com/V02/287-301.pdf

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A pre-test of the questionnaire was performed in order to assure its content validity before its final distribution to the respondents. First, we designed a preliminary version of the questionnaire. This version was given to researchers in the field of IT and information systems (IS), and to experts in the industry familiar with the African context. Each individual provided some comments on the formulation, the syntax, and the number of items included in the questionnaire. Taking into account the various comments, we made minor changes to the questionnaire. The various comments also permitted us to eliminate biases which could exist in the questionnaire. .

4.2 DataCollection
Data in this study were collected using a questionnaire survey. Orlikowski and Baroudi (1991) maintain that the questionnaire survey is the method of data collection mostly used in IT research. This method is often indicated for gathering data, describing and explaining peoples perceptions, attitudes, or behaviors. Questionnaires have the advantage of being structured and assuring standardization in the formulation of questions and in their sequence. We administered a survey to undergraduate students at a French-speaking university in Canada that use WebCT in their course of studies. It should be noted that in this university, WebCT served as an instructional supportive tool.

In order to be assured of a high response rate, we administered the survey by direct contact. This mode of communication is very demanding in terms of investment, both in the time it takes and in the amount of travel required. However, it seems to be the richest data collection technique (Emory, 1980). With the instructors assistance, we solicited students direct participation in their classrooms. The questionnaires were filled out on a voluntary basis before the beginning of courses. We obtained 172 usable responses out of 230 questionnaires administered, yielding a 75% response rate.

4.3 DataAnalysis
The statistical analysis for this study employed the SPSS statistical software. The assessment of the collected datas descriptive statistics, construct validity and the testing of the indicators reliabilities were conducted in SPSS. The factor analysis of principal component was mainly applied to validate the measurement of easy of comprehension and easy of navigation. 292
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5. Results
Details of the socio-demographic variables chosen for this study are given in Table 1. Table 1: Socio-demographic profiles.
Absolute Frequencies 57 115 67 87 10 6 2 1 1 7 15 27 33 88 6.32 5.10 6.61 3.29 2.92 Percentage 33.1% 66.9% 39% 50.6% 5.8% 3.6% 1.2% 0.6% 0.6% 4.1% 8.7% 15.7% 19.2% 51.2% 1.04 1.84 0.93 2.16 1.87

Variables Gender Age

Characteristics Male Female 16 - 21 years 22 - 27 years 28 - 33 years 34 - 39 years 40 or older Less than 1 year 1 year 1 to 2 years 2 to 3 years 3 to 4 years 4 to 5 years 5 or more years Information seeking Downloading Sending email Chat Forum

Years of experience using the internet

Different uses of the internet

The socio-demographic variables examined in this study are concerned with gender, age, years of experience using the internet, and the uses made of the internet. Only a third of the 172 respondents were men. The predominance of women in university programs is a reality which cannot be ignored. The respondents were relatively young, since 154 of the respondents (89.6%) are less than 30 years old. According to Par (2002), the new generation of students has an unprecedented level of mastery of ICTs (computers and the Internet). It is interesting, but not surprising in the North American context, that the vast majority of respondents seem to be familiar with the use of the internet. Indeed, 70.4% of respondents possess more than four years experience using the internet, which could favor their acceptance of WebCT which is a web-based application. However, the respondents show a very weak score in terms of their use of the online chat and of discussion forum. This low score is a bad sign of WebCT usage as these functionalities are nonetheless among the essential components of the application, since they permit both synchronous and asynchronous communication among learners as well as with the instructor.
*Corresponding author (Bangaly KABA). Tel/Fax: +225 21 30 34 57 Ext. 111 E-mail addresses: 2011. International Transaction Journal of Engineering, kbangaly@hotmail.com. Management, & Applied Sciences & Technologies. Volume 2 No.3. ISSN 2228-9860. eISSN 1906-9642. Online Available at http://TuEngr.com/V02/287-301.pdf

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5.1 Validationofthescalesofmeasurementused
Variables measurements were validated through convergent and discriminant validity testing. A principal components factorial analysis (PCA) was performed on each variables measurement items in order to verify both types of validity. Additionally, the reliability of each variable measurement was established by calculating Cronbachs Alpha coefficient. The tests of convergent and discriminant validity and of reliability are three measures necessary for the validation of a scale of measurement. In the following section, the results of these three tests are presented. 5.1.1. Testofconvergentvalidity An analysis of the correlations among the items measuring each variable was first carried out, followed by a principal components analysis (PCA) with Varimax rotation when more than one factorial axis was found.

The use of this method must satisfy three criteria. The first one is the criterion relative to the eigenvalue which aids in identifying the number of components (factors) to retain. In this study, we refer to Kaiser (1958)s rule according to which only the axes whose eigenvalue is higher than 1 are retained. The second criteria is related to the factorial contributions (loadings) which aims at identifying relevant items or indicators that better explain a factor. According to this criterion, only items with factorial contributions greater than 0.3 are accepted (Blau et al., 1993). The last criterion deals with the communalities of items and it indicates the proportion of explained variance in the combination of each factor. This criterion allows the assessment of the level of representation of each item in the principal components. In this study, an item whose communality was inferior to 0.4 was dropped from the analysis, in compliance with the suggestions of Evrard et al. (2003). 5.1.1. MeasurementofPerceivedEaseofComprehension Table 2 includes items measuring the ease of comprehension. Results in Table 3 show that the correlations among the items of measuring the ease of comprehension are positive and 294
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significant, which might be a manifestation of the uniqueness of this measurement. The PCA yields a factor which explains 68.36% of the total variance, with important positive factorial contributions (loadings) and a good quality of representation for each item (>0.4) (see Table 4). Based on the above results, we can state that the unidimensionality of this measurement has been proven. Table 2: Presentation of items measuring the ease of comprehension.
Variable Ease of comprehension Codification 3.1 3.2 3.3 Items description WebCT uses relevant terms WebCT uses simple terms WebCT includes links that give detailed information WebCT has a pleasant design WebCT posts pages that are easy to read

3.4 3.5

Table 3: Correlations matrix of ease of comprehension.


Items 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.2 3.3 3.4 1 0.753** 1 0.646** 0.555** 1 0.486** 0.490** 0.573** 1 0.587** 0.589** 0.608** 0.750** *** p< 0.01; ** p<0.05; *p<0.1 ns: not significant 3.1 3.5

Table 4: Factorial solution of ease of comprehension.


Variables Items 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Eigenvalue Explained variation (Ease of comprehension) 0.842 0.820 0.818 0.795 0.857 3.418 68.356 Quality of representation 0.709 0.673 0.668 0.633 0.734

5.1.1 Measurementofperceivedeaseofnavigation Table 5 shows items measuring the ease of navigation. The correlations among the items of the perceived ease of navigation variable are all positive and significant (Table 6) and
*Corresponding author (Bangaly KABA). Tel/Fax: +225 21 30 34 57 Ext. 111 E-mail addresses: 2011. International Transaction Journal of Engineering, kbangaly@hotmail.com. Management, & Applied Sciences & Technologies. Volume 2 No.3. ISSN 2228-9860. eISSN 1906-9642. Online Available at http://TuEngr.com/V02/287-301.pdf

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demonstrate the uniqueness of measurement of this variable. The PCA results in Table 7 show a unique factor explaining 79.65% of the variance. All the items have a very good quality of representation (>0.4). Table 5: Presentation Items measuring the ease of navigation
Variable Ease of Navigation Codification 4.1 4.2 4.3 Items description WebCT allows me to easily return to previously-viewed pages I can always tell where I am when navigating WebCT WebCT is an easy site to navigate

Table 6: Correlations matrix of ease of navigation


Items 4.1 4.2 4.3 1 4.1 0.715** 1 4.2 0.647** 0.721** 1 4.3 *** p< 0,01; ** p<0,05; *p<0,1 ns: not significant

Table 7: Factorial solution of ease of navigation


Variables Items 4.1 4..2 4.3 Eigenvalue Explained variation (Perceived ease of navigation) 0.881 0.912 0.884 2.389 79.649% Quality of representation 0.776 0.832 0.781

5.1.2 DiscriminantValidity The objective of this test is to verify the independence of the variables. Like for the test of convergent validity, a principal components analysis was carried out on the items measuring each variable. Three items were dropped from the analyses because each of them had a loading greater than 0.3 on the two selected factors. These items are: Item 3.3 (WebCT includes links that give detailed information) and item 3.4 (WebCT has a pleasant and agreeable design) for the variable ease of comprehension; and item 4.3 (WebCT is an easy site to navigate) for ease of navigation. According to the results discussed above and shown in table 8, we can assume the independence of the two variables of the research.

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The reliability test will conclude this validation of scales. The results appear in the following table: Table 8: Results of the test of discriminant validity
Variables Items 3.1 3.2 3.5 4.1 4.2 Eigenvalue Explained variation Ease of comprehension 0.887 0.872 0.809 Ease of navigation

2.894 57.888%

0.924 0.884 1.139 22.783%

5.1.3 AnalysisoftheReliabilityoftheMeasurement In order to ascertain the degree to which the measurement instrument (the questionnaire) used in this study evaluates the perceptions of respondents in a consistent manner, we performed a reliability analysis by calculating Cronbachs Alpha coefficient. The results for the two constructs of the study appear in the Table 9.

Table 9: Results of the reliability test.


Variables Wording Ease of comprehension Ease of navigation Variables of the study Items 3.1.; 3.2; 3.5 4.1; 4.2 Cronbachs Alpha 0.8367 0.8315

Throughout these results, we notice that the value of Cronbachs Alpha for all the variables is superior to 0.7, which shows the reliability of the adopted measurement instrument (Evrard et al., 2003 ; Teo et al., 1999).

6. Conclusion,Limits,andDirectionsforFutureResearch
The goal of the present study was to determine and validate measurements of the perception of ease of use which takes into account the features of an online tool, which is
*Corresponding author (Bangaly KABA). Tel/Fax: +225 21 30 34 57 Ext. 111 E-mail addresses: 2011. International Transaction Journal of Engineering, kbangaly@hotmail.com. Management, & Applied Sciences & Technologies. Volume 2 No.3. ISSN 2228-9860. eISSN 1906-9642. Online Available at http://TuEngr.com/V02/287-301.pdf

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WebCT. According to the analysis carried out in this work, perceived ease of comprehension and perceived ease of navigation emerge as good alternatives which could serve as measurements of the ease of use of WebCT, and indeed of other online interaction and learning tools.

The implications of these results, for the designers of Web-based educational applications in general and for those of WebCT in particular, are to continue to work toward making their product as user-friendly as possible. More specifically, the terms used in educational web applications must be as simple and relevant as possible. Jargon and technical terms in the wording of text used for links should be carefully avoided. These recommendations are equally valid for the academic content on WebCT. The results of this study can also be of benefit to those individuals responsible for selecting online applications, in that they would know in advance the relevant factors to take into account in order to increase the likelihood of success of the chosen technologies.

Nevertheless, this research has its limits. For a better assessment of the face validity or the content validity of the measurement used, it would have been helpful to recruit experts to examine them. Increasing the survey sample size would also have been quite useful to ensure that the studys findings could be generalized. In the future, this study could be extended to include other departments or universities where the level of ICT use is heterogeneous in order to evaluate and understand possible differences in results. Further, the extension of the research to other countries where the level of students access to e-learning tools is limited or at least is still at an embryonic stage would constitute a relevant basis for comparison of the external validity of the measurement instrument validated by this study. In such a study, it would be beneficial to proceed with a confirmatory factor analysis.

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7. Acknowledgment
A very special thank you is due to Associate Professor Dr. Boonsap Witchayangkoon for insightful comments, helping clarify and improve the manuscript.

8. References
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*Corresponding author (Bangaly KABA). Tel/Fax: +225 21 30 34 57 Ext. 111 E-mail addresses: 2011. International Transaction Journal of Engineering, kbangaly@hotmail.com. Management, & Applied Sciences & Technologies. Volume 2 No.3. ISSN 2228-9860. eISSN 1906-9642. Online Available at http://TuEngr.com/V02/287-301.pdf

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Dr. Bangaly Kaba earned his PhD degree in Information Systems from a joint PhD program administered by the four largest universities in Montreal (UQAM, HEC, Concordia University and McGill University). He is a visiting professor at International university of Grand-Bassam. His research interests include the adoption and implementation of information and communication technologies (ICT), especially mobile technologies, the impact of ICT on organizations, cultural issues in ICT adoption and use, tele-education, multimedia learning case study, quantitative methods, and management of international projects.

Peer Review: This article has been internationally peer-reviewed and accepted for publication according to the guidelines given at the journals website.

*Corresponding author (Bangaly KABA). Tel/Fax: +225 21 30 34 57 Ext. 111 E-mail addresses: 2011. International Transaction Journal of Engineering, kbangaly@hotmail.com. Management, & Applied Sciences & Technologies. Volume 2 No.3. ISSN 2228-9860. eISSN 1906-9642. Online Available at http://TuEngr.com/V02/287-301.pdf

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