Tag Archives: survey

Students’ Perceived Challenges in an Online Collaborative Learning Environment: A Case of Higher Learning Institutions in Nairobi, Kenya

Reviewed By: Loren Reese, Kara Trella, Maryanne Doran, Melissa Horton, and Brittany Ely

Link to article: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1768/3124

Article synopsis and core research questions

Muuro, Wagacha, Kihoro, & Oboko (2014) examined student perceived challenges of using online collaborative tools, such as Moodle and Blackboard, on Web 2.0 (and social media) while pursuing higher education in Nairobi, Kenya. The article states that online learning has risen in popularity in Kenya as a result of the increased demand of higher education. It goes on to address issues of faculty and infrastructure support for e-learning.

Using a questionnaire, a survey was conducted in two public universities and two private universities to identify perceived challenges by student respondents in their online collaborative learning environment. The authors state that three primary questions guided their research design: To what extent do students collaborate online while doing group work? What are the components of online collaborative learning, which learners perceive as challenging? And, is there any significant relationship between university type (public or private) and the perceived challenges in using an online collaborative learning environment? (Murro et al., 2014).

In their literature review, the authors focused on a philosophy of education termed constructivist theory, in that learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current/past knowledge. In seeking to define the term collaborative learning, the authors deferred to the 1999 Dillenbourg book Collaborative-learning: Cognitive and Computational Approaches, which states that collaborative learning is a, “situation in which two or more people learn or attempt to learn something together.” Adding that the situation is collaborative if the participant learners are relatively at the same level and, “can perform the same actions, have a common goal and work together” (Dillenbourg, 1999).

Among various issues, five were identified as major challenges, these were: lack of feedback from instructors, lack of feedback from peers, lack of time to participate, slow internet connectivity, and low or no participation of other group members.

The goal of the research was to inform educators in Kenya as to how they can improve collaborative online learning to provide the best possible education success.

Methods used to answer the research question

The researchers relied on a descriptive survey, which allowed for the accurate summation of the varied and complex experiences of the study participants, and created a body of data that was substantial enough to enable meaningful statistical analysis. The questionnaire that they developed was based on conceptual elements that were brought to light in the literature review, and consisted of thirty questions. All but one of these survey items required Likert scale or multiple choice fixed responses, with just one open-ended question in which respondents were asked to describe their worst online group experiences.

The respondents were students at two public and two private Kenyan universities, and with the assistance of instructors, a purposive sample group of 210 students was identified, all of whom were taking at least one online course or module. Assistance from one or more experts was solicited to streamline the wording and content of the questionnaire. After a period of two weeks was allowed for students to complete the online questionnaire, there was an 87% response rate (Muuro et al., 2014). The authors noted that not all of the data analysis that they performed was included in this paper, and may eventually be included as an important component of a larger future study (Murro et al., 2014).

Findings and conclusions

The research found multiple issues the students faced with collaborate work at the Kenyan universities. The largest issues related to the ability to access online work and the lack of participation among group members.

Despite Nairobi, Kenya having one of the best internet infrastructures in the country, 30% of the participants reported unreliable internet service, which made accessing and participating in group work challenging (Murro et al., 2014). Murro et al (2014) report if places like Nairobi do not have adequate infrastructure, then not only does it need to be improved there, but in other areas of Kenya as well, so that more people can have the opportunity to go to a higher education institution.

Other issues that students had were finding time to participate in group work and lack of feedback from their instructors. Over 50% claimed that finding time was an issue and 47% claimed they were not getting enough feedback from their professors (Murro et al., 2014).

Unanswered questions and what future research might address

This study acknowledges that future studies should “adopt large scale empirical approaches” to encompass different universities and regions in Kenya (Muuro et al., 2014). Since the fiber optic network is well established in Nairobi, further studies are necessary to gauge internet connectivity in other regions and countries beyond Nairobi. The ability of users to join/utilize social networking sites to link with other students and faculty would be an interesting area of future research, as these types of sites could be crucial to online support and student success and retention.

Other possible future studies include investigating the effect of collaborative learning and critical thinking skills as well as, “improving the level of knowledge constructed in blended e-learning platforms”(Muuro et al., 2014). Challenges faced in using online collaborative tools, as well as determining the correlation between teaching ideologies and effective instruction, are areas that merit further examination. Ways to increase instructor involvement with collaborative work in order to support online students more effectively would also be interesting questions for subsequent projects.

This study reported a gap between workload distribution between online collaborative groups in public versus private universities. Public university students reported less issues with workload sharing than private universities (Muuro et al., 2014). One theory proposed for this discrepancy, is the ability of public university students to work independently, with less instructor oversight, than private university students. Future research could reveal the root causes of this difference and provide interesting theories in this area.

Although the research for this survey asked for demographic information, it was not used to analyze the results. But for this issue, and perhaps others, it might help to theorize why these are issues for the students. More in depth findings could result in looking at how gender, age, geographical region, education background, and socioeconomic levels affect the responses. There might be patterns among students with similar demographics that could point to areas that need improving in order to help students do collaborative work successfully.


Dillenbourg, P. (1999). Collaborative Learning: Cognitive and Computational Approaches. Advances in Learning and Instruction Series. Elsevier Science, Inc.

Muuro, M. E., Wagacha, W. P., Kihoro, J., & Oboko, R. (2014). Students’ perceived challenges in an online collaborative learning environment: A case of higher learning institutions in Nairobi, Kenya. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 15(6).

Assessment of E-learning Needs Among Students of Colleges of Education

Reviewed By: Jon Andersen, Alisa Brandt, Megan Ginther, Desiree Gordon

Link to article:  http://tojde.anadolu.edu.tr/yonetim/icerik/makaleler/936-published.pdf

Assessment of E-Learning Needs among Students of Colleges of Education
Reviewed by Group 4: Needs Assessment of Embedded Librarianship. Group members: Megan Ginther, Jon Andersen, Alisa Brandt, Desiree Gordon

Article Synopsis:
In this article Azimi (2013) begins by exploring the literature for a definition of e-learning and to identify it as a growing field for higher education in many fields. In addition, he explores the literature for needs assessment articles on which to model his study. This allows Azimi a working understanding of different methods for providing e-learning and different approaches to needs assessments. Azimi (2013) then develops a needs assessment survey to identify the needs of various groups of students in regards to e-learning opportunities. This needs assessment was carried out with students at the University of Mysore. The main idea was that if students were introduced and offered e-learning opportunities it would mean that as educators they would be more comfortable using e-learning in their future classrooms. Azimi (2013) wants to identify areas where students need more support to become comfortable with e-learning both as students and as future educators. He theorizes that differences in gender, government aid status, and subject area of specialization may have an impact on student needs.

Methods Used:
The major method used by Azimi (2013) was a qualitative study utilizing a needs assessment survey to identify how e-learning methods could meet the needs of students in a Bachelor of Education program. Azimi (2013) examined the results to identify differences in needs for male and female students, government financial aid students, and students in the Sciences, Arts or Languages. The survey was a paper-based survey distributed randomly to students in the Bachelor of Education program. The survey consisted of two parts. A demographic data section where he collected information about gender, work experience, financial aid standing, and which subject area the student specialized in. The second part was designed to identify the student’s understanding of e-learning system components such as: instructional design; multimedia components; internet tools; computers and storage devices; and connections and service providers. He targeted 374 students with his survey.

Findings and Conclusions:
Azimi (2013) identified that most students were comfortable navigating internet tools and using video streaming and text tools. Areas where students identified the least comfort were with instructional design, mobile technology, asynchronous learning, and mobile technology. There was no noticeable difference between male and female students in these needs or in government-aided versus unaided students. There was also no significant difference between students specializing in Science, Arts or Languages. He did identify a significant correlation between gender and government aid; more female students were in government-aided programs than male students. In addition Azimi (2013) concludes that students need more support in understanding and clarifying the benefits of e-learning. He writes, “Moreover, students (as future teachers) should be made aware of the potential of various e-learning technologies for enhancing the teaching and learning process. Clarification of the incentives and elimination of obstacles to fully integrate e-learning is needed” (Azimi, 2013, p.282).

Unanswered Questions and Future Research:
This study does identify some areas where the colleges can strengthen their instruction regarding e-learning to help students be more comfortable with it and offering it in the future. However, Azimi’s (2013) major theory was not supported by this study and he could not prove that gender, financial aid status or subject area of study had any impact on students’ confidence with e-learning. We believe his theory was not supported by the research he cited in his literature review. Many of the articles he cited spoke more about e-learning confidence being built by explicit teaching about e-learning for educators. A future direction for follow up would be to explore whether students who have taken courses through e-learning are more comfortable than students with no e-learning background. Another factor that could be considered would be whether explicit courses teaching students about e-learning could have an impact on student confidence with e-learning methodology. We suspect that students who are taught about e-learning methods and have taken courses through e-learning would be most comfortable offering e-learning courses in the future. While students with no e-learning courses would be the least comfortable.

While student background had no impact on student’s comfort with and knowledge of e-learning system components Azimi (2013) does identify that there seems to be a link between gender and the need for government aid and in addition between subject area of concentration and government aid. Both of these issues could be explored in more depth although we believe there have been other studies dealing with these issues, especially gender issues. It seems intuitive that women would require more government aid to attend school than men especially, in a developing country where gender equality is still far from achieved. Factors such as less family support and planning for women to attend school would contribute to the need for more government aid. One question we had was whether there were more government aid programs available to encourage women to attend school and whether that would play a factor in the results Azimi (2013) reported.

The link between need for government aid and subject area of study could be an interesting follow up study to try to determine what causes students in the arts to require more financial aid than students in the sciences. We theorize that this may be due to more women going into the arts fields than the sciences so this result may also be tied into the gender issue. However, it could also indicate that students from lower socio-economic stratas are more likely to enroll in Arts fields rather than sciences and we wonder if this could be due to gaps in early science education caused by lack of access to science education tools. There are many questions in this area that could be explored.


Azimi, H.M. (2013). Assessment of e-learning needs among students of colleges of education. Turkish Online Journal of Education, 14(4). Retrieved from https://doaj.org/article/3e8c2b89e99d4157900bcf8c54032b26

Using the critical incident technique to evaluate the service quality perceptions of public library users: an exploratory study


Anna Ching-Yu Wong from Syracuse University conducted a research study evaluating the service quality of public libraries through the reports of participants who regularly use the library. The “critical incident technique” was used in gathering information from the participants. The critical incident technique is different from the traditional approach in surveying participants in that it relies upon actual events which offer insights of the subjects, rather as a blanket set of questions with a very limited number of open-ended questions. The critical incident technique has been verified by previous studies to be an effective research approach for user-centered studies in library science. This exploratory study further adds to the body of research surrounding the use of the critical incident technique in LIS by attempting to answer this question: is using the critical incident technique a good way to determine how serviceable a library is to its patrons? The study also focuses on public library services and evaluates participant’s positive or negative experiences at the library, attempting to answer the question: are patrons happy with the service quality at their public library?

Method of Research:

To answer both of these questions, emails and unstructured interviews were used to measure the experiences of eight frequent library visitors (aged 20-80) and data was conducted using SERVQUAL, a model that has been used by many libraries for evaluating their public services. The SERVQUAL model, developed by Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry in 1988, uses the patrons’ responses and categorizes them into the following domains in order to be evaluated later:

Tangible, effect of service: library staff attitudes, library collection and access

Reliability, the promised service; dependably and accurately

Responsiveness: The willingness to assist and provide prompt service to library users

Competence: Possession of the required skills and knowledge to perform the service

Courtesy: Respect and consideration of contact personnel

Credibility: Trustworthiness and honesty of the library staff

Security, library as a place: No risk

The process of the data went through two stages. First, the researcher sent out a message to participants, asking them to record the incidents — either negative or positive — while being given examples of standard critical incidents from other library users. After all of the surveyors’ responses were recorded, two coders classified them into categories and examined their validity (the degree of the agreement between two coders was over 95%), and the collected critical incidents were grouped into the seven categories listed above.


The participants of the study found online resources to be helpful because it was easy to locate materials and user friendly. The study shows that 48% found the resources available to be tangible considering how user-friendly the catalog is and also how patrons able to easily locate books. Based on the study and results of participants found that the public library is not reliable. In this particular category no participant provided a positive response about the reliability of library. Another category in which the library failed in is that of courtesy. Only one participant suggested the things that transpired within library showed a lack of respect for patrons. An example of such is people speaking loudly and library staff not having authority to change their behavior. Participants felt insecure about the library due to the number of homeless people surrounding the area panhandling. Activities such as this and patrons using profanity made participants feel unsafe.


The participants of the data is reliable considering they are regular users of the library. In order to conduct the study data was collected via email and in person interviews. The study shows that the library should create a safer, reliable, and courteous environment for patrons. In order to create a larger study and compare other libraries a large population should be considered. Also, further research and a diverse populations should be considered as well.
Results showed that positive incidents were slightly higher than negative ones. Also, women library users had more positive experiences than men.
The study also showed that even though participants resided in different states, their positive and negative incidents revealed similar situations.
Of 47 recorded incidents, library access issues accounted for more than one-third of all incidents, approximately 36.17% which represented 48% of the positive related critical incidents and 22.73% of the negative ones.

Unanswered questions/ Ideas for future research:

Clarification was needed as to how the participants were selected for this study? Was this the best sample of patrons that represent library users? How diverse was this sample? This study would benefit from a larger base of participants and consider including non-library users.
A clarifying point could be made to address the discrepancy to the statement of initially having 12 participants, but later stating that there were a total of 8. Did the drop in participants impact the results of 19 positive and 16 negative incidents, yet on the table provided it states 25 positive and 22 negative. While this study provided valuable information for public libraries, there needs to be transparency as to how the results were obtained.

Possible answers to these questions:

Perhaps selecting a non-user would give the researchers valuable input.
More patrons would have given the researchers more data to work with.
Replicating this test 2-4 times a year may provide more insight as to how patrons use the library and the services provided.