Although multiple studies examine institutional transitions of learning management systems (LMS) or compare their merits, studies examining students' free choice of access on parallel LMSs for the same course are absent from the literature. In order to investigate usage in a free‐choice situation, identical content was posted at the same time to two different LMSs in a large enrollment class with a diversity of majors.
Two prevalent LMSs were utilized in the study: WebCT, which was in existence at a university‐wide level previously, and Moodle, which will become the new university‐wide system in the 2012‐13 academic year onwards. Both student self‐reports and LMS log usage data were analyzed. LMS preferences and usage groups were categorized.
Although this inquiry revealed that most students chose to use the WebCT system (85 per cent WebCT users, 15 per cent Moodle users; both self‐reported and log‐verified), the reasons given for WebCT preference pertained largely to habit and that most other courses are using the WebCT LMS. In contrast, the reasons given for using Moodle spoke directly to the attributes of the LMS itself, namely the interface quality and the way it is organized.
This study indicates that institutions should look beyond student usage patterns in making LMS choices, and that LMS quality is sometimes, and perhaps unfortunately, overshadowed by student habit and familiarity.
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