H. Khechine1, S. Lakhal2

1Laval University (CANADA)
2Sherbrooke University (CANADA)
Most online courses have integrated synchronous and asynchronous information technologies to support affective and cognitive students’ outcomes. Many studies stated that affective outcomes like satisfaction, anxiety, autonomy, and motivation were improved when students use information technologies for their learning. However, cognitive outcomes were mainly measured with learning effectiveness as expressed by students and rarely with students’ performance. When measured using the final marks at the end of the course, students’ performance offers a more “objective” way to evaluate the effect of the use of technologies. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of the use of Elluminate, a webinar system, on students’ performance, measured through marks. We tested the direct effect of Elluminate use on students’ performance. The moderating effects of concentration, autonomy, anxiety, gender, and age on the relationship between Elluminate use and students’ performnace were also tested.

The study sample was made of students enrolled in an online undergraduate management information systems course of an administrative science program in Quebec. Complementary classroom sessions, that were broadcasted live and recorded via Elluminate, was scheduled for every week. Students had the choice to follow the course exclusively online, to listen to live sessions, or to listen to recorded sessions. We obtained 167 valid responses among the 470 students registered in the 2012 winter session. Data collection began 2 weeks before the final exam and lasted 5 weeks, just in time before making final marks available to students. The questionnaire was made of 12 closed-ended questions and 3 open-ended questions. Except for gender, age, and concentration, all the other quantitative items were measured on a seven-point Likert-type scale.

Hypotheses were tested using multiple regression analysis in SPSS software. Results showed that the direct relationship between Elluminate use and students’ performance was significant and negative. Even if this result may seem astonishing, students’ comments obtained from the open-ended questions have brought some explaining arguments such as the lack of concentration while listening to live or recorded sessions. This lack of concentration was often due to technical problems with the system or to the absence of visual contact with the professor. Doing other activities while listening (eating breakfast or folding laundry) has also made the students more distracted. Anxiety was the only moderating variable that has had a significant effect on the negative relationship between the use of Elluminate and students’ performance. Indeed, some students were even not sure to get the same information shared in class after listening to audio recordings. This uncertainty made them less confident about the content of the recordings.

On the theoretical side, testing a new model allowed adding new knowledge on technology adoption in higher education. On the practical side, our results may be helpful to decision makers because they have shown that the use of webinar systems did not lead to the expected positive effect on students’ performance. For now, webinars are transforming online courses into blended ones thanks to the practical advantages that they bring in terms of time saving and space flexibility.