CCE Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Engineering and Computing


Ling Wang

Committee Member

Junping Sun

Committee Member

Inkyoung Hur


The development of software and communication technologies in education has led the majority of universities worldwide to integrate the functions of Learning Management Systems (LMSs) into their learning environments. LMSs offers several features that encourage their use by universities and other educational institutions, such as unlimited access to course content, easy tracking of learners’ progress and performance, and reduced costs in terms of both money and time. Most existing LMS studies have been focused on experienced LMS users who are familiar with its functions, with little consideration given to new users. Furthermore, although previous researchers have identified various means of enhancing the effectiveness of LMS use, no consensus has yet been reached on which of these features most successfully improve the learning outcomes of new learners enrolled in programming courses.

The purpose of this study, therefore, was to examine the usability of particular LMS features and their impact on learning outcomes for freshman students enrolled in programming courses. Through the Virtual Programming Lab (VPL) and discussion forums, particular LMS features have been considered. For this study, a quantitative quasi-experimental design was employed, including experimental and control groups of new students enrolled in an introductory programming course that involved different LMS features. These features have been considered in the place of treatment in this experiment, in which the level of difference between participants in the two groups was compared.

This study involved two main dependent variables: LMS features’ usability and learning achievement. For the first dependent variable, LMS usability, the participants completed a survey, based on the components of Shackel’s usability model (1991), to evaluate the effectiveness of the LMS features’ usability. Four constructs underpin this model: effectiveness, learnability, flexibility, a¬¬nd attitude. For the second dependent variable, learning achievement, the final grade was used to measure the impact of these two LMS features on learning achievement between the two groups.

The results revealed significance differences related to LMS features’ usability and learning achievement between the experimental group and the control group. Participants in the experimental group reported greater LMS usability than did those in the control group, and overall course scores indicated improved learning performance in members of the experimental group who applied the VPL and discussion forms features of programming courses.