The Core Business Of Wawasan Open University Education Essay

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The core business of Wawasan Open University is open distance learning. The students of WOU are mostly working adults who pursue undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes on a part-time basis in disciplines such as science and technology, business administration, education, languages and liberal studies. WOU adopts a blended approach for course module delivery. Due to the limitations in technology infrastructure such as the bandwidth in the Asian region (Bates, 2001), self-directed learning materials are provided to the students on CDs together with prescribed textbooks. The continuous academic interaction between teachers and learners is facilitated by a Moodle (version 1.8)-based learning management system (LMS) named WawasanLearn.

The course module delivery at WOU consists of two components: (i) self-study using self directed study materials specifically designed for ODL by academics functioning as course coordinators and instructional designers working in course development teams; and (ii) tutor support provided by subject-matter experts through monthly face-to-face tutorial sessions, telephone counselling and online counselling via WawasanLearn.

As the students of WOU are scattered throughout Malaysia, the university operates learning centres or regional offices in the cities of Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, Johor Baru, Kota Baru and Kuching to provide students access to physical libraries, tutorial sessions as well as administrative support. However, due to the geographic distribution of the learners, the primary point of continuous interaction among students, tutors and course coordinators is WawasanLearn.

Given the importance of WawasanLearn in the course module delivery at WOU, a number of studies have been conducted to determine whether student interaction is at a satisfactory level. Teoh et al. (2010) argue that student interaction on WawasanLearn, in both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, is low and further reduces as a semester progresses.

1.2 background of the study

Education is one of the crucial transformation pillars for human capital development. The increased demand in the service quality for education sector in the country is observed since the past few years. High level of service quality particularly in the tertiary education sector, has became one of the crucial determinants to realize the country's goal and agenda.

Therefore, measuring and managing service quality has received increased attention of researchers and practitioners in education sector. In order to fulfill social agenda and broaden the tertiary education opportunities for everybody, the open distance learning (ODL) has emerged as one of the trend in the world. Unlike conventional institutions of higher learning, the teaching and learning process in ODL institutions is separated in time and/or space. Hence, the quality of teaching and learning in ODL institutions needs to be enhanced by consistent and high quality student support services. WOU provides comprehensive student support services to all students, comprising face-to-face tutorial sessions, online learning through the learning management system platform, telephone tutoring, library resources and support at regional centers. This study attempts to identify, examine and discuss the service quality provided by WOU.

1.3 Problem Statement

To determine the reasons of service quality in Wawasan Open University

• Tutorials conducted by part-time tutors with relevant subject expertise and experience. Tutors are also available for consultation/counselling via the telephone at appointed times twice a week.

• WawasanLearn is a Moodle-based learning management system (LMS) that provides online learning support on a 24Ã-7 basis. It enables students to access supplementary materials and links to relevant websites, and to participate in forum discussions with their course mates, tutors and course coordinators.

• Extensive electronic library resources that can be accessed at any time and from any place that has an Internet connection. Advisories on administrative matters from the regional offices, registry, as well as the call centre.

• Regional offices equipped with computer labs, libraries and free access computer

terminals.

1.4 Research Questions

The following research questions were developed in order to guide the present study:

1.4.1: What are the trust factors determined and improves the service quality in Wawasan Open University?

1.4.2: How students of different interest and from different academic backgrounds differ in the service quality selection in Wawasan Open University?

1.4.3: Do factors that enhance service quality give a significant impact on Wawasan Open University?

1.4.4: What are the main factors that enhance service quality in Wawasan Open University?

1.5 Research Objectives

In line with the problem statements, this study has four specific objectives

To determine which trust factors improves the service quality in wawasan Open university.

To identify the significant differences between students' interest and education background when service quality is concerned.

To examine the factors that enhance service quality give a significant impact on Wawasan Open University.

To determine the main factors that enhance service quality in Wawasan Open University

Scope of Study

The scope of this study is limited to those open university students who study in the Johor Bahru. This is because the branch campus that conducts university courses are concentrated around areas in the Johor Bahru.

Students who are currently attending university level programmes, such as Business Programmes are defined as the target sample in this study. The targeted sample is defined as such due to this group of people having the highest possibility of assessing the service quality in Wawasan Open University.

Significance of the Study

The facts of the research on the theoretical results would enrich the existing literature. This research will explain further those reasons that ensure service quality in Open University. The findings of this research will beneficial to both students (customers), and Open University (service providers) for better future planning and decision

1.8 Limitation of the Study

The respondents of the study represents the feedback of Open University students enrolled in the Business programme in a semester only. The future studies can look into other programmes and conduct an analysis research on various students groups over consecutive semesters.

CHAPTER 2

LITERATURE REVIEW

2. Introduction

This chapter will present an extensive review of the literature whereby it will include what models were used, how the framework was designed and explanation on variables involved.

2.1 The service quality in WOU

Service quality has been seen to be an important factor in determining the success of the service organizations. Zeithaml et al. (1992) suggested that one of the prime issues of poor performance by service organizations is not knowing or sure of what their customer's expect. This is due to the fact that service organizations offer their products that is seen as more intangible.

Consequently, this provides satisfaction or dissatisfaction to the recipient of the service, often viewed as service quality. One of the most well known methods for measuring service quality is SERVQUAL developed by Parasuraman et al. (1988).

According to Parasuraman et al (1988), SERVQUAL consist of five dimensions namely tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance and empathy. By tangibility, it refers to the physical facilities, equipment, and appearance of personnel.

Reliability refers to the ability of the provider to perform the promised service

dependably and accurately. This includes doing things as promised, error-free services and immediate reaction on the problem faced by the customer.

Responsiveness refers to the willingness by the provider to help and provide prompt service. Assurance means that the provider will ensure that the employees are knowledgeable of the products offered, courteous, and able to instill confidence to customers on the product/ service offered. By empathy, it refers to the caring, individualized attention the organization provides to its customers, and understand the specific needs of the customers. Based on these dimensions, SERVQUAL has been tested by many in different contexts and situations.

Carman (1990), for example, tested the SERVQUAL in service settings like dental school patient, business school placement centre, and acute hospital care. He suggested that the dimensions identified by Parasuraman et al. were not generic and suggested adding new dimensions or factors under different situations.

In the field of education, Soutar and McNeil (1996) used a revised version of

SERVQUAL in evaluating service quality in an Australian university. They found that the students were quite satisfied with the quality of the academic units surveyed.

However, there were gaps (between perception and expectation) in reliability,

responsiveness, assurance, empathy, knowledge and communication for the academic units surveyed. For the non-academic service quality, the gap was larger, that is the more unfavorable assessment of the service quality delivered as compared to the expectations.

They also believed that the generic dimensions of SERVQUAL are applicable in the

university context and that modifications of the research instrument to include industry specific quality features is appropriate.

Joseph and Joseph (1997) examined the service quality in New Zealand, and found that there were 7 factors determining service quality: program issues, academic reputation, physical aspects, career opportunities, location, time and other factors like family and word of mouth influences. When comparing between the perceptions of their own university and that of an ideal quality university, they found that New Zealand universities have not achieved a high perceived level of service quality which could give them a competitive advantage. On a scale of five-point scale, the mean response to the question about their satisfaction with their university was 3.749.

Their results also showed significant differences between male and female respondents on physical aspects, location and other factors. Using Joseph and Joseph (1997) instrument, Ford et al. (1999) found that U.S. students rated greater importance to academic reputation, cost/ time issues, program issues, other, physical aspects, and choice influencers.

In another study by Oldfield and Baron (2000), they used a two stage approach in

collecting the data, that is by focus group and questionnaire like the previous studies by Joseph and Joseph (1997). Oldfield and Baron found that there were 3 factors important in determining quality of higher education in the U.K university, namely requisite, acceptable, and functional.

Requisite refer to those items or encounters that are essential to enable the students to fulfill their study obligations like academic staff have knowledge to respond to students' questions on courses, employ staff who have confidence, caring academic staff, administrative staff interest in solving problems, dealt promptly for assistance, understand students needs and others.

Acceptable refers to those encounters which students acknowledge as being desirable but not essential during the course of study. This would include services of the academic staff on individual attention, services provided within time expected, courteous staff, and caring academic staff.

By functional, it means those encounters that are of practical value like convenient operating hours, uptodate equipment, and render promised services. They also compared the perceptions of service quality between first year and final year students.

They found that the perceptions change over a period of study, with 'acceptable' dimension having more importance than others.

LaBay and Comm (2003) conducted a pilot study assessing the comparative student

satisfaction between distance education and traditional course delivery. Using the gap analysis derived from SERVQUAL, they found that there were gaps between students' expectations and delivery perceptions for the traditional and distance education.

For the traditional delivery, the gap suggests that the expectations exceeds the delivery, while for the distance education, the gaps showed that the delivery exceeded expectations.

However, the findings of the study also suggest that traditional and online students hold similar expectations concerning course outcomes, regardless of the delivery method of the course.

Langrosen et al. (2004) examined the key dimensions of quality in higher education in Austria, Sweden and U.K. They found 11 key dimensions of quality namely corporate collaboration, information and responsiveness, courses offered, campus facilities, teaching practices, internal evaluations, external evaluations, computer facilities, collaboration and comparisons, post-study factors, and library resources.

From these studies, it can be discerned that there are many approaches to measure service quality in education. The dimensions of service quality also vary depending on the areas focused by the researcher.

However, in view of the universality of the SERVQUAL model, this approach will be adopted in assessing service quality in the open and distance learning context in Malaysia. In other words, this will be used as a basis to define and redefine the key dimensions of service quality in this study.`

CHAPTER 3

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

Methodology

Data collected was obtained from the university's student records data base for 1271 students who have sat for their first semester exams. This sample comprised students from three different intakes. The sample size studied was relatively larger than the sample size usually employed by researchers which was an average of 200 to 300 students. This sample represented a range of socioeconomic groups who are geographically distributed across Peninsular Malaysia and is homogenous in nationality. First semester GPA being the dependent variable had been regarded as an indicator of the student's performance or success transitioning from his last academic pursuit to tertiary education in Wawasan Open University open distance learning environment.

The student's age and the highest academic qualification obtained prior to joining the university were used as the independent variables for this study. The number of courses enrolled by each student varied from 1 to 4 courses was employed as the moderator of this investigation.

For analysis of data and to assess the objective of this study, the quantitative information obtained was analysed using the SPSS software which operated the ANOVA test and multiple linear regression. Correlation coefficient was used to measure the strength of the relationship between variables while coefficient of determination was used as the descriptive measure of the utility of the regression equation for making predictions (Weiss, 1994).

 

Findings

The age of the students' population is distributed across a wide range with the youngest being 21 years of age and the oldest is 71 years. As illustrated in Table 1, the average age for the students is 31 years. These students were able to achieve a mean GPA score of 2.80. The lowest GPA obtained was 0.42 and the highest GPA recorded was 4.0 which incidentally is the maximum limit for the GPA performance. The number of courses which a student was permitted to enroll in a semester varied from 1 to 4 courses and averagely a student would register for 3 courses.

Table 1 also indicated that almost 99% of the students would have received their formal education until Year 11 before progressing to tertiary studies.

Table 1. Descriptive Statistics for the variables investigated (n=1271)

Quantitative Variables

Mean

Standard Deviation

Age

30.68

8.32

GPA

2.80

0.91

Number of courses (Moderator)

2.93

0.60

 

Qualitative variable

Level

Number of students

Academic qualifications

PMR

[equivalent to Year 9]

11 [0.9%]

SPM

[equivalent to Year 11]

510[40.1%]

STPM

[equivalent to A-LEVEL]

272[21.4%]

DIPLOMA

444[34.9%]

DEGREE

32[2.5%]

MASTER

2[0.2%]

Table 2 presents the results of the multiple regression analysis. The correlation coefficient, R of 0.196 signifies a very weak positive correlation between the GPA obtained and the multiple independent variables of age and previous academic background of students. As indicated in R-square only approximately 4% of the variation in GPA is accounted by the compound factors of age and academic background while the rest of 96% is explained by other factors not mentioned in our regression model.

Similar trend was also observed when multiple regression statistical analysis was applied to determine the effects of several joint independent variables such as age, education background and number of courses enrolled on the GPA attained. Concurrently, these three factors only accounted for 4% of the variation in GPA. This would connote that 96% of the variation is governed by other factors not studied in this regression model.

 

Table 2. Multiple Regression Analysis

Model

R

R Square

Education background & Age

0.196

0.038

Education background, age & number of courses enrolled

0.199

0.040

 

Independent variables: Education background/age/number of courses enrolled

Dependent variable: GPA

 

The ANOVA details displayed in Table 3 provide details of the variation explained by the regression model. A model with large regression sum of squares in comparison with residual sum of squares indicates that the model accounts for most of the variation in the dependent variable. In both of the study models here, the magnitude of residual sum of squares is reversely larger than the regression sum of squares, thus denoting that both the models investigated are not able to account for significant variation in the GPA acquired.

 

Table 3. Analysis of Variance (ANOVA)

 

Model

 

Sum of Squares

df

Mean Square

F

Sig. (p)

Education background & Age

Regression

Residual

Total

39.739

995.967

1035.705

2

1264

1266

19.869

0.788

25.216

 

0.100

Education background, age & number of courses enrolled

Regression

Residual

Total

41.067

994.639

1035.705

5

1261

1266

8.213

0.789

10.413

0.100

 

Table 4 evidently illustrated that the two independent variables (age and academic qualification respectively) were found to have significant effect on the GPA of students. Age was a significant predictor of GPA performance (p < 0.05). This will imply that older students would perform better than students of the younger age. Similarly the education background of a student can also positively predict the GPA performance where students with higher academic qualification tend to have higher GPAs.

However, when the age of students was moderated by the number of courses enrolled, it did not show any significant effect on their GPA performance. This trend was also reflected when this moderator was applied on the prior education background of the students. Therefore, separately the students' age and their academic background when moderated by the number of courses registered in a semester do not influence the GPA performance.

 

Table 4. Coefficients

Model

Unstandardized

Coefficients

Standardized Coefficients

t

Sig (p)

B

Std. Error

Beta

- Age

- Education background

0.20

0.081

0.003

0.027

0.188

0.085

6.769

3.061

0.000

0.002

- Age moderated by number of courses enrolled

- Education Background

moderated by number of courses enrolled

0.004

 

0.006

0.005

 

0.041

0.121

 

0.024

0.853

0.156

0.394

0.876

 

Discussions

The trend revealed for the effect of age was consistent with those described in the previous research whereby older matured students inclined to achieve higher GPA and perform better academically than younger students. Based on this, we can infer that younger students may likely achieve poorer results in their studies under the open distance learning system. Therefore a concrete learning support system must be developed, implemented and enhanced to guide these younger students for self-study and serve as the interface between the institution and the student.If the students are not fully aware of the various learning support services and system available before joining, they may find themselves in an unfamiliar territory.This will lead to poor student performance and eventually may contribute to high attrition rate. This is more so because adult students perceive the outcomes (eg. grade performance, career options etc.) as the representation of a fair exchange of money invested as well as time and effort devoted.

Therefore, the learning support services and system established must meet the variety of needs of the adult learners. In a nutshell, these system and services will focus on the administrative and academic aspects. This should include but not be limited to, establishment of Regional Office/Learning Centres, face-to face tutorial sessions conducted by qualified and experienced tutors, a comprehensive Learning Management System, a digital Library, career counseling, advising and registration opportunities etc.

Strong effects of prior academic qualification on GPA performance proved that prior formal education at a more advanced level will help students to thrive through their tertiary studies less strenuously. The recent Open Entry Policy implemented by the Ministry of Higher Education in Malaysia with the basic objective of providing adult learners a wider access to higher education and promoting open distance learning as an alternative mode to tertiary education in the country accept students with a minimum qualification of Year 9 (PMR) and must be at least 21 years of age. Recognizing the fact that students with lower level of formal education will deliver poorer results, it is imperative that these students be equipped with learning strategies and skills as well as fundamental knowledge that will strengthen their foundation to pursue and excel in higher level courses of their intended programme. In this regard, students with lower level of formal education must be exposed and required to register for courses such as Learning Skills for University Studies and other foundation courses during their first semester of studies. This should form an integral and essential component of distance learning education.

Interestingly, the moderator (number of courses enrolled) has minimal effect on the relationship between the GPA attained and the age or previous academic qualification. However, one may suspect that interpretation of causal relation between the number of courses and the GPA may be possible. In any case, one may conclude that higher GPAs are associated with students' age and their previous highest academic qualification.

However when the age and the previous academic qualification factors were combined to examine its effect on the GPA, no significant effect was observed. This would suggest that other hidden variables may have a collaborative effect in determining the GPA. It may be worth to examine other factors which may influence the performance of matured students as their needs are often differ-ent from the conventional students. Conventional students comprise mainly younger students whom their needs may only revolve more around academic issues. Conversely, adult matured learners are commonly associated with factors such as delayed entry into college/tertiary education institution, not having a regular high school certificate, married with children, being a single parent, being financially independent and have a full-time job. These factors may affect the motivation or mitigate the student's commitment particularly when the core of open distance learning is student-centred where the students take responsibility of learning. Teachers or tutors are merely there to facilitate learning and help students to access and process information. In this regard, student's commitment is a variable that is worth examining. The time spent on studying may be used as yardstick to measure the commitment of students.

CHAPTER 4

DATA ANALYSIS

4.0 Introduction

This chapter will explain the results and analysis of data obtained based on the objectives of this research. All results will be explained in detail accordingly which will then be presented in table form with descriptive text and discussion.

4.1 Demographic Profile

The following data was obtained using frequency analysis.

Table 4.1

Demographic Items

Frequency

Percentage (%)

Gender:

Male

Female

25

25

50

50

Age:

Below 25

26-35

36-45

Above 45

26

21

3

0

52

42

6

0

Marital Status

Single

Married

42

8

84

16

Ethnicity:

Bumiputra

Chinese

Indian

Others

35

6

3

6

70

12

6

12

Educational Status:

Form 5 and below

Diploma

Degree

Others

8

9

30

3

16

18

60

6

The table above shows the demographic profile of the respondents from this research. In the gender group, male and female, were 50% respectively. In the age group, the majority of them came from the age group of below 25, followed by the age group of 26-35, and 36-45 with the following percentages, 52%, 42%, and 6% respectively. Among those who partook in this research, 84% of them were single and 16% of them were married. At the same time, 70% of them were Bumiputra, followed by 12 % each for Chinese and Others, and Indians accumulated 3%. Finally, most of those surveyed were degree holders at 60%, followed by Diploma holders at 18%, Form 5 and below at 16% and last but not least were other qualifications at 6%.

4.2 Goodness of measurement

4.2.1 Reliability Analysis

Reliability analysis is used to test the internal consistency among items. This is used to examine the extent to which a scale produces consistent results (Naresh, 2007). According to Julie Pallant (2007), Cronbach's Alpha above 0.7 is acceptable and above 0.8 is preferable. The Cronbach's Alpha for this research is 0.776. Therefore this shows that the questionnaires are reliable.

4.3 Findings Analysis

Key Findings

Overall Level of Satisfaction by Service Dimensions

The level of satisfaction for all the five service dimensions, as indicated by the mean scores of 122 replies, ranged from 6.0 - 6.6 points (Figure 1) out of the 9-points scale. This result shows that the service quality of WOU met and slightly exceeded the desired service level of the respondents in the Business programme. The level of satisfaction for reliability service dimension was the highest, followed by responsiveness, empathy, assurance and tangibles dimensions.

Figure 1: Mean Service Quality Scores by Service Dimensions

Nonetheless, although the mean scores of the level of satisfaction for all the five dimensions seems encouraging, there were some specific areas of services that scored lower than the students desired level or below the average satisfaction level. These areas, as summarized in Table 6, include the telephone counseling sessions, the library facilities at the learning centers, the accessibility of the WawasanLearn - Learning Management System (LMS), and the ease and convenience of handling the course materials.

Table 6: Specific Issues Which Require Attention (relatively) - mean score less than 6

Statement

Dimensions

Statement No. in Questionnaire

Average Score

The telephone counseling sessions are useful and interactive.

Assurance

7

4.9

The library facilities at the learning center are well-equipped.

Tangible

16

5.4

The Learning Management System WawasanLearn is accessible at all times.

Reliability

4

5.9

The course materials are easy and convenient to handle.

Tangible

15

5.9

On the other hand, there were some areas where service quality has exceeded the desired expectation of the students. For instance, the courteous and prompt services of regional office staff, tutors, and course coordinator; the feedback or results of the assignments received in time; and the on-schedule face-to-face tutorial sessions. (Table 7).

Table 7: Specific Issues on which performance is good

- students perceptions have exceeded their desired level - mean score equal or more than 7.

Statement

Dimensions

Statement No. in Questionnaire

Average Score

The RO staff, tutors and course coordinators are courteous and prompt in extending their service.

Responsiveness

10

7.1

The feedback/results of assignments are received in time.

Reliability

2

7

The face-to-face tutorials are held as per schedule.

Reliability

3

7

Level of Satisfaction of Service Quality - Average Score

The mean scores for each of the service quality questions were depicted by Table 8. The overall Business programme offered by the University is matched or slightly exceeded the expectation of the students.

Table 8: Level of Satisfaction of Service Quality: Average Scores

Statement No.

Statement

Mean Score

1

The course materials and textbook are received in time.

6.5

2

The feedback of assignments is received in time.

7

3

The face-to-face tutorials are held as per schedule.

7

4

The Learning Management System WawasanLearn is accessible at all times.

5.9

5

The content of the course materials are appropriate, relevant and easy to follow.

6.4

6

The face-to-face tutorials are effective to facilitate learning.

6.5

7

The telephone counseling sessions are useful and interactive.

4.9

8

The WawasanLearn is helpful and informative to support your learning.

6.2

9

The level of information provided at the Regional Office (RO) / Learning Center (LC) is sufficient to your general queries.

6.1

10

The RO staff, tutor and course coordinator are courteous and prompt in extending their service.

7.1

11

When you interact with the University, the response is prompt/fast from the:

Headquarters

RO/LC

6

6.4

12

When you interact with the University regarding a specific problem, the general willingness of the staff to help are good from the:

Headquarters

RO/LC

6.1

6.5

13

Timing of face-to-face tutorials and telephone counseling sessions are suitable.

6.1

14

The quality of the printed course materials is good.

6.4

15

The course materials are easy and convenient to handle.

5.9

16

The library facilities (books, reference materials etc.) at the learning center are well-equipped.

5.4

17

Other physical facilities (e.g. tutorial rooms, computer labs) at the LC are in good condition.

6

18

The location of the LC is convenient.

6.3

19

The overall business programme offered by the University is:

6.4

Relative Importance of Overall Service Quality Dimensions

In terms of the relative importance of the service dimensions, the utmost important area, as highlighted by the respondents, was the assurance dimension. (Figure 2). The other service dimensions in the relative importance sequence were reliability, tangibles, responsiveness, and empathy.

Figure 2: Relative Importance of Service Quality Dimensions when respondents

allocate 100 points.

Level of Satisfaction versus Relative Importance of the Five Service Quality Dimensions

The survey result highlighted that assurance dimension is perceived as the most important service quality area by the students, but the level of satisfaction (as indicated by the mean score) for the dimension was in a rather low ranking (Table 9). The message translated from the findings was concerted efforts need be taken to step up the service quality in the assurance dimension.

Table 9: Level of Satisfaction versus Relative Importance of Five Service Quality Dimensions

Dimension

Ranking as per

Level of Satisfaction

Ranking as per

Relative Importance

Assurance

4 (mean score = 6.02)

1 (average points allocated = 37)

Reliability

1 (mean score = 6.60)

2 (average points allocated = 18)

Tangibles

5 (mean score = 6.00)

3 (average points allocated = 16)

Responsiveness

2 (mean score = 6.50)

4 (average points allocated = 15)

Empathy

3 (mean score = 6.23)

5 (average points allocated = 14)

Level of Satisfaction of Service Dimensions by Age Group

Although all respondents indicated that the service dimensions met their desired level or were higher than their expectation, there were some interesting findings from different age groups. The younger respondents (those in 21-30 years old) tended to have higher expectations towards the service level, as reflected by their mean scores which were generally lower than other age group of respondents (Table 10). On the other hand, senior respondents (51 years old and above) generally recorded higher satisfaction for each service dimension.

Table 10: Level of Satisfaction of Service Dimensions (in mean score) by Age Group

Statement No.

Dimension

Age Group

21-30

31-40

41-50

51-60

61 and above

Mean Score

1-4

Reliability

6.3

6.9

6.9

7.4

6.5

5 - 9

Assurance

5.8

6.3

6.0

6.6

6.6

10-11

Responsiveness

6.3

6.6

6.9

7.0

7.4

12-13

Empathy

6.0

6.5

6.5

6.9

6.0

14-18

Tangible

5.8

6.1

6.5

6.4

6.1

Relative Importance of Service Quality Dimensions by Age Group

As majority of the respondents (nearly 83 per cent) were in the age group of 21 - 40, their areas of concern will be utmost importance for the university in offering their services. This group of respondents rated assurance dimension as their top concern, followed by reliability, tangible, responsiveness, and empathy dimensions.

Overall, the assurance to the quality of study materials was most importance for almost all age group, except for the senior respondents (61 years old and above) (Table 11). Instead, the tangible dimension, such as the appearance of the university's facilities, study material and other communication materials, seems to be relatively more important to the senior students. Furthermore, the responsiveness and empathy dimensions were relatively rated more crucial for senior age group (61 and above). Although senior students accounted for only a small percentage of the total, their concern should not be neglected.

Table 11: Relative Importance of Service Quality Dimensions by Age Group

Dimension

Age Group

21-30

31-40

41-50

51-60

61 and above

Average Points Allocated

Reliability

17.0

18.7

19.3

23.3

16.7

Assurance

(i) related to quality of study materials

20.6

23.0

24.7

23.3

16.3

(ii) related to knowledge and ability of institution's employees

17.2

15.3

14.4

15.7

14.7

Responsiveness

15.3

14.0

15.7

12.7

17.7

Empathy

13.9

13.7

11.6

10.0

16.6

Tangible

16.0

15.3

14.3

15.0

18.0

Total (in points)

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

100.0

Level of Satisfaction of Service Dimensions by Gender

The expectation or level of satisfaction towards the service dimensions does not appears to be significantly different between male and female respondents. However, the male respondents rated slightly higher satisfaction level for reliability dimension, whereas the female respondents were more satisfied with the responsiveness dimension (Table 12).

Table 12: Level of Satisfaction of Service Dimensions (in mean score) by Gender

Statement No.

Dimension

Gender

Male

Female

Mean Score

1-4

Reliability

6.7

6.5

5-9

Assurance

6.0

6.0

10-11

Responsiveness

6.4

6.7

12-13

Empathy

6.3

6.2

14-18

Tangible

6.0

6.1

Relative Importance of Service Quality Dimensions by Gender

Gender does not really matter or influence the ranking of relative importance of service quality dimensions. Both male and female respondents ranked assurance dimension as most important, followed by reliability, tangible, responsiveness and empathy (Table 13).

Table 13: Relative Importance of Service Quality Dimensions by Gender

Dimension

Gender

Male

Female

Average Points Allocated

Reliability

18.1

17.8

Assurance

(i) related to quality of study materials

21.5

22.2

(ii) related to knowledge and ability of institution's employees

16.3

15.9

Responsiveness

15.1

14.7

Empathy

13.9

13.1

Tangible

15.1

16.3

Total (in points)

100.0

100.0

Level of Satisfaction of Service Dimensions by Occupation Category

Generally, the respondents who held managerial post seems noted higher satisfaction towards the services offered by the university compared to the other two, namely non-managerial and non-working class. However, non-managerial level respondents accounted for nearly two-third of the respondents, in which their satisfaction level towards assurance and tangible dimensions, though met their desired level, were among the lowest mean scores (Table 14).

Table 14: Level of Satisfaction of Service Dimensions (in mean score) by Occupation Category

Statement No.

Dimension

Occupation Category

Managerial

Non-Managerial

Non-working Class

Mean Score

1-4

Reliability

6.8

6.5

6.7

5-9

Assurance

6.2

5.9

6.3

10-11

Responsiveness

6.9

6.4

6.6

12-13

Empathy

6.7

6.1

6.2

14-18

Tangible

6.1

5.9

6.3

Relative Importance of Service Quality Dimensions by Occupation Category

All the respondents from the different occupation categories indicated the similar ranking to the relative importance of the five service quality dimensions. They gave more weight to assurance dimension, subsequently by reliability, tangible, responsiveness, and empathy dimensions.

Table 15: Relative Importance of Service Quality Dimensions by Occupation Category

Dimension

Occupation Category

Managerial

Non-Managerial

Non-working Class

Average Points Allocated

Reliability

20.2

17.0

18.9

Assurance

(i) related to quality of study materials

21.8

21.2

23.8

(ii) related to knowledge and ability of institution's employees

15.5

16.4

15.9

Responsiveness

13.6

15.8

13.3

Empathy

13.2

14.1

12.1

Tangible

15.7

15.5

16.0

Total (in points)

100.0

100.0

100.0

4.6 Conclusion

Based on the data analysis above it can be concluded that all the Research Questions have been answered as well as fulfilling the objective of this research. Table 4.6 will summarize the data analysis above based on Research Questions for this research.

CHAPTER 5

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATION

Conclusion

Analysis of the data from several semesters indicated that the frequency of participation on the Moodle (ver.1.8)-based LMS of WOU called WawasanLearn was low. A study was conducted in the form of a survey among the adult ODL students at WOU to identify the factors which contributed to the frequency of logins into WawasanLearn. The study also aimed to identify the extent of the use of the LMS social networking platform by students and determine why they were drawn to participate more frequently on this social networking platform.

The analysis of the data identified several key features which would increase the frequency of logins into WawasanLearn. It further identified LMS as an ideal supplement to WawasanLearn as the key features were already available on this platform. As a result, a pilot project was initiated in the School of Science and Technology which used LMS as study groups to supplement WawasanLearn. The pilot project was run for two semesters over one year and feedback was gathered from the participants at the end of the project. The feedback indicated that the students found the LMS study groups to be effective tools for their learning .

Keeping in view of the importance of learning support system and services, future study may incorporate additional variables such as student's commitment into the present model which may help account for higher proportion of the variation in dependent variable and to achieve a better model fit.

Although the findings of this study have valid points it can be further improved. Measurement of the students' performance using GPA may also be substituted in future studies by using other indicators such as total earned credit hours. This indicator may overcome the apparent weakness in the GPA value as an indicator for which the GPA may lack of comparability across programmes, classes and schools.

5.2 Recommendations

In order to meet, at least at par, if not exceed the high expectation of students, several measures need to be taken to enhance the quality of services offered to students. We recognize that telephone tutoring serves as a channel for students to communicate and create rapport with the tutor in a more personal manner. Telephone counseling sessions can be either tutor-initiated or student-initiated. It is noted that better telephone counseling support is needed to improve the service quality offered to the students. Expectations of the delivery, functions and scope of telephone tutoring need to be clearly defined and informed to all tutors and students before the start of a course. Providing appropriate and continuous training to tutors on effective telephone tutoring skills would be useful. In a student-centered ODL environment, students are encouraged to initiate telephone calls and follow up with tutors on course related matters during the pre-specified hours of the tutor's availability. Students need to be aware that telephone counseling is not the only mean of support, as the university provide other ways for the students to communicate with tutor and peers, e.g. via email and discussion boards in the web-based Learning Management System platform. In addition, the university can also arrange with telephone/mobile service provider to arrive at a cost-saving call/SMS package for tutors. Even though access to electronic books and references is available to all students, it was noted that students perceived tangibility of learning resources as a concern. Physical library resources such as books and references can be enhanced while getting the students to be acquainted with electronic/'soft' learning resources in an ODL environment. Besides, the university may establish agreements with other institutions of higher learning for making their physical library resources/facilities accessible to WOU students. Course materials may also be published in a more handy form such as security-protected electronic softcopy materials to enhance the convenience of learners.

5.2.1 Limitations of the Study and research for the future

Various constraints of the study are determined. The above analysis was based on the feedback of students of one semester and a single programme only. Future studies could look at other programmes and conduct comparative analysis across students groups over several semesters.

The respondents of the study accounted for only about one-third of the total number of students enrolled in the Business programme. The study would be more representative of the ODL service performance of the institution if it could, in future, cover larger segments of the learners population.

As the questionnaires were administered to students before the inaugural final examination, service quality elements related to examinations (e.g. logistics and timeliness of exam results) were not included in the study.

There are a few of the limitations from this research study have been recognised additional deliberation for the research in the future. Firstly, we are concentrating on the school of business as our focus of the study, thus producing in highly likely possible an unfair situation. It is said that those researches in the future should be including the entire faculty and to the extent of using the entire campus. Secondly, we use the self-reported questionnaires that might be influenced by the biases of responds.

Therefore, an accurate item analysis is required to be carried out as to eliminate items that do not differentiate on the instrument it claims to measure. Finally, we are aware that since the cross-sectional data analysis cannot validate the path of causality indicated in the research model, we have to be more aware in conclusions about causality. It is also proposed that the researches in the future are required to be succeeding by various organisations, such as the other universities.

Another point to note is to have a data collection from other universities. This will

provide the schools to be able to check these data against their own performance in

the past, against other schools of accounting and also against those outstanding

schools

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