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A comparative study on the effectiveness of e-learning at a Malaysian university

Jowati binti Juhary
Akademi Tentera Malaysia
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
This proposal for future research aims to analyse the effectiveness of e-learning in higher education by looking at students' academic achievement. It is vital to investigate this issue because many higher learning institutions spend a huge amount of money on perfecting their e-learning operations. The research design proposed in this study concentrates on three randomly selected groups of students undergoing different treatments in an elective course of English language. Questionnaires, simple experiments and structured interviews are used to gather data for analysis and discussion. It is expected that students who use almost 100% e-learning will excel in their academic performance and thus reaffirms the belief that e-learning brings lot of advantages.


This proposal focuses on only e-learning in one developing country, Malaysia. For this study, e-learning is used at tertiary level. In an opinion paper on "e-Learning and Developing Countries", Roloff (2002: 4) suggests that the principal area of e-learning is mainly for adult education. As such, this paper will support this statement though some scholars believe that e-learning can also be applied at the primary and secondary education. The overall purpose of the research is to investigate, analyse and discuss the effectiveness of technology in the education system - theoretically and pedagogically. Since there are not many empirical researches in developing countries about the effectiveness of using technology in the education system, perhaps this paper may be able to contribute some ideas and new insights into the field. Many assumptions have been made nation wide about the fact that technology helps in the process of teaching and learning. However, they are not proven as supported by a statement in an article entitled "e-Learning System and Technology Concept" (E-Courses Assumption University 14 October 2004). The statement confirms the need to have more independent study on the effectiveness of e-learning as the area and scope of e-learning itself is limitless. Another research concludes that the performance of e-learning students is at least the same as face-to-face (FTF) learning students. This comes with the same consideration for pedagogical designs, delivery and also the right amount of sources (Ladyshewsky 2004). Thus, the governments and education stakeholders have to look again at the investments on e-learning; if e-learning gives the same results as FTF, then perhaps educators can just choose to explore new FTF strategies.

e-Learning: Concept and practice in Malaysia

The practise of e-learning in Malaysia can be categorised into two. Firstly, as e-learning is still at its infancy stage in Malaysia, only UNITAR and OUM offer almost 90% of their courses on-line and with e-learning environment (UNITAR 30 May 2002, OUM 7 April 2004). Their courseware and others from different universities are not the same as they have different syllabus. Many public institutes of higher learning, for example, UMS, UPM, UiTM and USM, use e-learning in a mixed-mode environment (Lim Thien Sang and Nelson Oly Ndubisi 2003, Abu Daud Sulong et. al 2002). To be more specific on the practice of e-learning, there is not yet a 100% e-learning. It is always a blended e-learning; a mixed mode e-learning whereby a combination of e-learning and FTF learning are used together. Secondly, students do not yet grasp e-learning concept. As highlighted by Parmjit Singh (Gomez 10 June 2001:2) students still print the lecture notes and tutorials and work on from the hard copy. This statement is further supported by a study done in 2003 which highlights students' preference to paper tutorial and notes (Jowati Juhary 2003). This is opting the traditional method of learning. Mr. Singh also stresses that distinction should be made between using technology due to a need and utilising technology just for the sake of technology itself. In addition, some students are still afraid of using the computers. Their concerns range from fear of losing information to unfriendly system of e-learning (Abdul Malek Abdul Karim and Nurahimah Mohd. Yusof 2003: 140, Manochehri and Young 2003: 190). Therefore, more research is needed to provide evidence on the effectiveness of e-learning.

The e-learning concept allows for more working people to further their studies as distance and time are no longer the barriers to education. There are four objectives of this tertiary e-learning in Malaysia. The first is to introduce new concept of learning at a higher level of education. Secondly, it introduces interactive and productive method of learning. The third objective is to ensure students study independently and lastly to allow for balanced education in Malaysia (UNITAR 30 May 2002). Learning model in e-learning includes independent study, on-line interaction, self-evaluation and graded assignments sent on-line.

Most researchers in e-learning discuss the positive effects of using e-learning because it improves students' commitment in the learning process (Rashty 2003:2). By this it means that students become active participants in the classrooms. Gan Siowck Lee (2001: 45) also agrees on this because she adds that students are becoming more responsible and spend extra time learning through e-learning. Other scholars like Schoenfeld-Tacher, McConnell and Graham (2001) conclude that e-learning enhances students' competitive spirits and nature in terms of oral interactions. Since students are getting a lot of resources, they find conversation to be easy.

This proposal intends to use pre/post tests, examination results, questionnaires and interview as the basis of data collection and measurement for the effectiveness of e-learning. These designs are chosen because they can give an indicator for the effectiveness of e-learning. Pre/post test results can give a surface value on the effectiveness of e-learning itself. Meanwhile, questionnaires and interviews can gauge students' awareness and belief on e-learning as a new tool of learning.

Research questions

This proposal has four research questions. They are,
  1. How does e-learning help in the process of teaching and learning?
  2. What are the relations between students' academic achievement and e-learning?
  3. What are the differences in students' academic achievement before and after e-learning treatment?
  4. What are the relations between gender, socio-economic background, academic ability and e-learning?

Research design and method

This study is a descriptive research - simple quasi experimental study. Whilst printed materials provide useful insights into the topic, simple experiments, questionnaires, and formal observations must be conducted to support the ideas and focal as well as background theories. The research is conducted within 14 weeks (one week has 3 contact hours) with three groups - Group 1, 2 and 3. It should be noted that 2 weeks are used for pre-test, post test and also the final examination. The students in each group are chosen based on stratified random sampling and they are the first year Education students. Each group has 30 students; 10 excellent, 10 average and 10 weak students. Malaysian Certificate Examination (MCE) results for English Language will be used as the indicator for excellent, average and weak students. Two of the three groups will be the experiment groups and the other group is the control group. Table 1 below illustrates the number of contact hours and the kind of treatment received by students in all three groups.

Table 1: The distribution of hours, treatment and groups for the research

Groups/Treatmente-LearningFace-to-Face (FTF)
Group 130% = 10 hours 48 minutes70% = 25 hours 12 minutes
Group 270% = 25 hours 12 minutes30% = 10 hours 48 minutes
Group 3None100% = 36 hours (12 weeks)

Pre-test is given at the beginning of the 14 weeks or the treatment period. Then, treatments are given to Group 1 and 2. At the end of the treatment period, students are given the post test. Pre and post tests are the same questions. Final examination is conducted then, followed by distribution of questionnaires. After that, 30 students from the three groups will be randomly selected for the structured interview. Thus, data are collected from the results of pre/post test, final examination, questionnaires and also structured interviews.

The students in the three groups are all full time students and they are going to learn in an artificial environment. This simply means that the learning is not conducted during normal semesters; rather, it is going to be during the semester break. The semester break is between February until May and those who participate in this study are not volunteers as they will be considered to be taking 'a third semester elective' course. As such the students registered for the course will be completing one of the elective courses for their study programme. The activities are part of the teaching components. This elective course carries a "Pass/Fail" grade. Should the normal grades be used, i.e. A, B, C, D and E, then a question of ethics may arise. Ethics here refers to whether it is fair to treat only two groups of students with e-learning. If e-learning brings advantages to students, then the marks of the students in the control group will be affected.


As this is a proposal on the topic of effectiveness of e-learning, collecting and analysing secondary data are still in progress. Students or subjects for the research have been identified and preliminary preparation is being made to organise groups, classes and materials for the students. At the same time, questionnaires are being prepared and will soon be pilot tested. The pre/post tests are being finalised. It is hoped that this research can be completed within its time frame as the findings may be crucial to the education system in Malaysia.


Abdul Malek Abdul Karim and Nurahimah Mohd. Yusoff (2003). A blended learning strategy in using e-learning: University students' perceptions. 3rd International Conference on Technology in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. College of Arts & Science, National-Louis University. Heidelberg, Germany, 14-16 July [published paper proceeding]

Abu Daud Silong, Kamariah Abu Bakar, Daing Zaidah Ibrahim and Mohamed Amin Embi (2002). Students' perceptions on on-line learning in Malaysian universities. VirTEC Journal, 2(2), 51-60.

E-Courses Assumption University (2001). 14 October 2004

Gan Siowck Lee (2000). IT and Education in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur: Longman.

Gomez, G. (2001). Easing into e-learning. Sunday Star, 10 June, pp. 2-3

Jowati Juhary. (2003). Technology and teaching: Materials and infrastructure challenges. 3rd International Conference on Technology in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. College of Arts & Science, National-Louis University. Heidelberg, Germany, 14-16 July [published paper proceeding]

Ladyshewsky, R. K. (2004). Online learning versus face to face learning: What is the difference? In Seeking Educational Excellence: Proceedings of the 13th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 9-10 February 2004. Perth: Murdoch University.

Lim Thien Sang and Nelson Oly Ndubisi (2003). E-learning adoption: Initial concerns and excitements. ASAIHL Conference 2003. UMS Sabah: Centre for Corporate and International Relations. Sutera Harbour Resort Sabah, 28 Sep - 1 Oct [published paper proceeding]

Manochehri, N. and Young, J.I. (2003). The effects of web-based learning vs. traditional instructor-based learning on student knowledge and satisfaction based on student learning styles. 3rd International Conference on Technology in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. College of Arts & Science, National-Louis University. Heidelberg, Germany, 14-16 July [published paper proceeding]

OUM (Open University Malaysia) (2001). [7 April 2004]

Rashty, D. (2003). Traditional learning vs. e-learning. [1 May 2003]

Roloff, K. (2002). E-learning in developing countries: An opinion paper. Detecon International. [viewed 1 May 2003, not found 28 Nov 2004]

Schoefeld-Tacher, R., McConnell, S. and Graham, M. (2001). Do no harm - A comparison of the effects of on-line vs. traditional delivery media on a science course. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 10(3), 257-265.

UNITAR (Universiti Tun Abdul Razak) (1999). [30 May 2002]

Author: Jowati binti Juhary
Akademi Tentera Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
Kem Sungai Besi 57000, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Please cite as: Jowati Juhary (2004). A comparative study on the effectiveness of e-learning at a Malaysian university. In R. Atkinson, C. McBeath, D. Jonas-Dwyer & R. Phillips (Eds), Beyond the comfort zone: Proceedings of the 21st ASCILITE Conference (p. 475). Perth, 5-8 December.

© 2004 Jowati binti Juhary
The author assigns to ASCILITE and educational non-profit institutions a non-exclusive licence to use this document for personal use and in courses of instruction provided that the article is used in full and this copyright statement is reproduced. The author also grants a non-exclusive licence to ASCILITE to publish this document on the ASCILITE web site (including any mirror or archival sites that may be developed) and in printed form within the ASCILITE 2004 Conference Proceedings. Any other usage is prohibited without the express permission of the author.

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