Design of a Cloud-Based Architecture for Inter-Learning Management System Collaboration on digital content delivery across Zimbabwean State Universities
There is pervasive use of heterogeneous learning management systems (LMSs) in higher and tertiary education. However, the approach in which LMSs are adopted and implemented seems problematic and disjoint as we move from one institution to another. As a result, students’ expectations on the possibility for a chance to get material and content from universities other than where they are formally registered may remain a mere dream. Students have raised worries over problems which are inherent in the current setup of their LMS. These concerns form a sound basis for academic enquiry into the subject matter. Unless students’ worries and fears are resolved, an unhealthy competition for student attention would continue to increase between the traditional classroom approach, and emerging use of parallel online technologies, even while lectures continue. The thesis draws on research that was conducted from April 2014 to August 2017. The studies aimed at establishing the status of LMSs in higher education in Zimbabwe and propose a new architecture of LMSs that addressed problems identified in the current setup of LMSs. Data for this study was collected from four state universities, namely Chinhoyi University of Technology, National University of Technology, Midlands State University and Great Zimbabwe University. Data collected focused primarily on students’ feelings and experiences on the current use of LMSs. Quantitative methods were used to draw out more information from the data collected. The research results are based on findings from 240 respondents, and reveal problems that students are facing when using LMSs as they are currently. The survey provides evidence that almost 40% of students now use laptops and smartphones compared to less than 1% of students who still use desktops. The study established that 82.3% of students pointed out that they experienced challenges when accessing LMSs. This could be due to power outages in the institutions where servers reside. Additionally more than 50% would want material presented in all the formats – video, text and audio – unlike the traditional text-based approach. Above all, 87.4% of students would want to have access to resources in state universities other than where they are officially registered. Another area of concern which emerged was the need to address disability, which interferes with use of LMSs. Although this was left for further study, is of paramount importance. Based on research findings, this study proposes a redesign of LMSs. The proposed architecture is cloud based, hence Cloud-Based Learning Management System. It addresses problem of availability, hence accessibility of LMS over the internet, and equips LMSs with the ability for digital content exchange. Inherently LMSs are equipped with elasticity of infrastructure once on the cloud. Results of this study are hoped to help systems administrators, analysts and programmers who develop LMSs.