The Relationship Between an Online Synchronous Learning Environment and Knowledge Acquisition Skills and Traits: The Blackboard Collaborate Experience.
Online learning is becoming more attractive to perspective students because it offers them greater accessibility, convenience and flexibility to study at a reduced cost. While these benefits may attract prospective learners to embark on an online learning environment there remains little empirical evidence relating the skills and traits of knowledge acquisition with a synchronous online environment supported by Blackboard Collaborate. Without understanding this relationship colleges and universities cannot assess if their programs offered through educational communication technologies, such as Blackboard, enhance learner’s skills and traits that are essential for knowledge acquisition. The purpose of this paper is to (i) examine the relationship between an online learning environment, which is supported by Blackboard Collaborate, and the skills and traits of knowledge acquisition, (ii) assess the influence of online learners motivation on knowledge acquisition skills and traits, and (iii) propose alternative Blackboard Collaborate layout and structure derived from the process of a critical reflection. Data was collected from 84 learners who studied online courses in a Higher Education Institution in the United Arab Emirates. The Analysis of Moment Structures (AMOS) was employed to perform the path analysis and SPSS was used to determine the factor structure of the examined variables. The study revealed three major findings. First, easy access of the Blackboard Collaborate and an effectively designed structure enhanced learners’ problem understanding and communication. It also improved the personal traits of conceptualisation, tolerance and amiability that are essential for knowledge acquisition. Second, the readiness of the online learners with educational communication technologies had a positive influence on their liberal arts knowledge. Third, learners’ attested motivation to embark on synchronous online classes enhanced their knowledge acquisition skills and traits. Finally, alternative Blackboard Collaborate layouts and structures are recommended aiming at encouraging future researchers to further investigate the relationship between the knowledge acquisition skills and traits of learners and an online synchronous learning environment.