Experiences of Online Learning: An Evaluation of First-year Sport Sciences University Students’ Attitudes towards the Use of U-Link

  •  Alberto Testa    


The UK Government’s recent funding cuts in higher education, coupled with the importance of maintaining competitiveness at a global and national level — a competitiveness that has worsened lately due to a gloomy recession — have placed even more pressure on UK academic institutions to adopt innovative curricula and, most importantly, to increasingly use technology in their courses. Blended Learning — defined as “the thoughtful fusion of face-to-face oral communication and online learning experiences” (Garrison & Vaughan, 2008, p. 5), is replacing traditional teaching formats. Virtual Learning Systems (VLS) such as Web-CT and U-Link are part of the Blended Learning strategies, and represent a significant way to assess teaching quality at an academic institution, particularly at the departmental level. Hence, VLS should be constantly promoted, developed and, most importantly, evaluated.

This case study aims to evaluate students’ attitudes towards the Virtual Learning System U-Link. Data were gathered using a survey administered to 116 first-year Sport Sciences students at Brunel University, a large UK academic institution. The students’ attitudes were assessed using a Likert Scale and open-ended questions. Overall, the respondents were satisfied with their U-Link experience and considered U-Link to be a key tool in their learning. In line with Bennett’s (2002) work, students judged their experiences with academic modules adopting U-Link more favorably than they did with modules that did not have online web-based support. Students’ comments, however, were not all positive; negative feedback pointed to an absence of interaction (lack of communication and feedback) between instructors and students, and a lack of interaction among students.

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