A Triangulated Model to Assess Adoption of Virtual Learning
Environments in Primary Schools
Elena Codreanu
, Christine Michel
, Marc-Eric Bobillier-Chaumon
and Olivier Vigneau
Université de Lyon, 92, Rue Pasteur, 69007, Lyon, France
Université Lyon2, GRePS, EA 4163, 5, Avenue Pierre Mendès France, 69676, Bron, France
INSA-Lyon, LIRIS, UMR5205, F-69621, 20, Avenue Albert Einstein, 69621, Villeurbanne Cedex, France
WebServices pour l’Education, 22, Rue Legendre, 75017, Paris, France
Keywords: Virtual Learning Environments, Acceptance, Appropriation, Triangulation.
Abstract: The objective of this paper is to highlight the existing theoretical approaches which study the issue of
technological adoption, and to establish a triangulated model to explore Virtual Learning Environments
adoption in primary schools. The theoretical models cover three approaches: the social acceptance, the
practical acceptance and the situated acceptance. Our triangulated model proposes to explore three types of
factors: technological factors, activity and task factors and perceptual factors in order to assess technological
When new technology is deployed in schools, it is
generally expected to improve educational practices
overall. New technologies are associated to quick
change, modernisation, and improved efficiency.
These resonate with contemporary issues in education
like innovation, modernisation and democratisation
of schools. This political will of modernisation
remains quite general and it is not backed up by
scientific information on various situations and use
contexts. Such research is increasingly necessary as
existing studies (Blin and Munro, 2008, Cuban et al.,
2001, Jonsson, 2007) highlighted low use of
technologies available in schools. Also,
contemporary technologies become more complex,
flexible and interconnected. VLEs (Virtual Learning
Environments) are a typical example of complex
technology, with services designed for teaching,
learning, school management; addressed to different
public: teachers, parents, students, and available in
various contexts: at home, at school and in mobility
situation. The term VLE has different connotations
from country to country. In UK, VLEs were designed
primarily as collaborative learning spaces to which
administrative modules were later added. In this view,
a VLE is “learner centred and facilitates the offering
of active learning opportunities, including specific
tutor guidance, granularity of group working by tutor
and learners, and varied peer and tutor support,
feedback, and discussion” (Stiles, 2000). By contrast,
in France, VLEs were conceived from the outset as a
single workspace for both management and learning
The administrative modules (marks,
absences) designed for virtual classrooms served then
to design pedagogical applications and collaborative
working groups. In both British and French systems,
VLEs aim to encourage communication and
collaborative practices between the members of a
school community through tools like blogs or email
and to foster access to information.
So we can see that VLEs serve to carry out diverse
activities, are intended for several distinct user groups
(teachers, students, parents, and staff), and can be
exploited in very different contexts: in the classroom,
at home or on the move. This complexity can limit the
development of practices and the motivation to use it.
In this article we chose to evaluate the factors
involved in VLEs adoption in primary schools and to
consider two processes: technology acceptance and
appropriation. When they explain acceptance, the
existing studies focus either on individual factors
(like satisfaction, effort expectancy) or practical
factors (technological features like ergonomic of the
system), or, lately, contextual factors (like history and
evolution of professional practices). In this article, we
propose to present the main theoretical frameworks in
Codreanu, E., Michel, C., Bobillier-Chaumon, M-E. and Vigneau, O.
A Triangulated Model to Assess Adoption of Virtual Learning Environments in Primary Schools.
In Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Computer Supported Education (CSEDU 2016) - Volume 2, pages 287-293
ISBN: 978-989-758-179-3
2016 by SCITEPRESS Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
the study of acceptance and to eventually describe a
triangulated model to evaluate technology adoption.
It represents a first version of a model of technology
adoption that is based on different theoretical
Most of the theoretical approaches which try to
explain technology adoption are actually describing
acceptance and appropriation and come from the
fields of social psychology and ergonomics. This
sections describe three positions: the model of social
acceptance, practical acceptance and situated
1.1 The Models of “Social Acceptance”
These approaches focus on human factors in the
process of technological acceptance. The main idea is
that people’s perceptions and attitudes may play a
major role in this process. According to Davis (1989)
and his model TAM (Technology Acceptance
Model), acceptance can be explained through two
factors: perceived usefulness and perceived ease of
use. These two perceptions influence the intentions to
use the technology which, in turn, influence the
acceptance of the technology. Other attitudinal
factors are later added: satisfaction, performance
expectancy, effort expectancy. This model is inspired
by the theory of reasoned action (Ajzen, 1991) which
consider that behaviour is guided from inside by
people’s intentions. Other authors (Blackwell et al.,
2013) talk about internal factors (like beliefs,
convictions and attitudes of users), and external
factors (like support, training, technical
infrastructure). Some authors support the idea that
internal factors take priority in the decision to use an
educational technology (Pynoo et al. 2011, Pynoo et
al., 2012) while others think that external factors are
predominant (Ertmer, 2005). When they study VLEs
acceptance in particular, authors highlight the same
duality. While some support the major role of
technical infrastructure like access to the computer
classroom, number of computers in classroom,
Internet access and high speed Internet access and
institution management (Keller, 2006, Keller, 2009,
Osika, 2009, Babic, 2012), others admit that causes
of VLEs reject are lack of confidence in technology
and lack of time to train (Karasavvidis, 2009). Other
studies show that it is actually the connection between
the internal and the external factors that matters:
external factor (like institutional support, training)
will subsequently shape the beliefs and attitudes
toward the technologies and then the intention to use
those (Inan and Lowther, 2010).
In primary teaching, technology are less frequent,
so there are not many studies on this particular
subject. Studies demonstrated the importance of self-
confidence toward computer use in the development
of attitudes toward technologies and indirectly in the
intention to use the technologies (Chen and Chang,
2006, Faurie and Van de Leemput, 2007, Giamalas
and Nikolopulus, 2010, Tsytouridou and Vryzas,
2004). Beside confidence, some authors outline the
role of perceived security in the acceptance of VLEs
in primary school (Codreanu et al., 2015). VLEs
suppose a functioning similar to that of social
networks, with a unique access to content. Teachers
doubt their own possibilities of control and
moderation in cases of on-line bullying and
interrogate about the responsibilities in case of
misappropriation of the VLE by students. Also, they
worry about the misuse identity by other colleagues.
In primary schools, these issues are particular
important, because the students are particular young
and vulnerable to these forms of harassment.
Social acceptance approaches have nonetheless
been subject to a number of criticisms concerning
both methodological criteria and the models’
foundations (Brangier, Dufresne, and Hammes-
Adelé, 2009). One criticism is that these studies have
little practical relevance for the technological design
and improvement of the system. In effect, these
studies indicate that a system is not acceptable to the
target group without giving any information about the
changes and adaptations required. Added to this is the
fact that the research is based on small samples that
are not representative of the professional context, and
use questionnaires (scale of measurement) as the sole
method of evaluation. Critics claim that such a
method results in a truncated, partial and rather
disembodied picture of the meaning people attach to
the technology. However, in educational context, we
retain the effort to specify precise factors directly
implied in technological acceptance: confidence in
computer use, social and institutional support,
technological infrastructure and children’s security.
1.2 The Models of “Practical
This approach focuses on the technology
characteristics (human factors and ergonomics) and
how the tool is implemented (support, training,
participatory design). The prevailing idea is that when
technology is easy to use and well implemented
(training is provided and end users are included in the
design process, for example) the device’s acceptance
is enhanced. In sum, the aim is not only to design a
suitable product, but also a suitable relationship to
CSEDU 2016 - 8th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
technology, and ultimately contribute to an
acceptable user experience for the individual
(Barcenilla and Bastien, 2009).
According to Nielsen (1994), the two most
important attributes for technology acceptance are
usability and utility. Usability refers to the fact that
people can easily use the functions of a system.
Utility refers to the capacity of the system to help
users do their tasks. In short, a technology easy to use
and useful will be accepted by the users. To these two
attributes, Nielsen adds others: costs of the
technology, compatibility, reliability. We have to
mention that the notion of “usability” is different of
that of “perceived ease of use” in the previous social
model. While the first refers to the effective usability
and is evaluated through user tests, the second refers
to perceptions and subjective attitude toward usability
and is evaluated through questionnaires. The ISO
9241 norm specify that the three dimension of
usability are: effectiveness (the accuracy with which
users achieve specified goals), efficiency (the effort
required for users to do theirs tasks) and satisfaction:
what users think about the system.
Ergonomics specialists proposed a list of criteria
to evaluate the usability of computer interfaces.
Bastien and Scapin (1993) proposed eight criteria:
guidance (means available to orient the user
throughout the interface), workload (interface
elements that play a role in the reduction of users’
perceptual and cognitive load), explicit control (the
control users have on the processing of their actions),
adaptability (the system’s capacity to behave
according to users’ needs), error management (means
available to recover from errors), consistency
(maintaining the interface choices in similar
contexts), significance of codes (codes and names
should be meaningful for users) and compatibility
(match between the users characteristics and task
characteristics). Concerning the last criteria,
compatibility is particularly important when
technologies are used by users with specific
characteristics (in terms of age, customs, perceptions,
skills). For instance, technologies designed to be used
in primary schools, should be adapted to a public of
young children, who do not master writing, reading
and have limited fine motor skills. So, the interfaces
should avoid using a lot of text content and complex
pull-down menus; they should prefer instead images
and simple menus (Hourcade, 2007, Lueder and Rice,
2008). Budiu and Nielsen (2010) used specific
methods in order to evaluate children’s behaviour on
the web (think aloud, card sorting). They proposed a
list of 130 recommendations for interfaces designed
for children (aged 3 to 12), organised by the type of
content (general interaction, navigation, images,
videos etc.). Generally, they recommend to use
interactive content, sound and colours, use of the
metaphors and big buttons. They also advise to ensure
children’s control over the interface and to avoid
sensory and cognitive overload.
These studies are important because they provide
precious practical advising for designers. The main
criticism is that they are focused on functional aspects
and do not consider the intrinsic characteristics of
user like emotions (pleasure, fun, amusement).
Recently, studies began to consider user as a real
partner in design of a technology in approaches like
User Centred Design and participatory design
(Carroll and Rosson, 2007, Carroll, 2008).
Participatory design “relies on the collective
generativity of stakeholders; in other words, it uses
the collective ability of stakeholders to generate or
create thoughts and imaginings” (Baek and Lee,
2008, pp. 173). In school technologies, participatory
design suppose that teachers and students can be
actively involved in the design of their future tools so
that these tools would better meet their needs
(Sucupura-Furtado, 2008, Konings et al., 2007,
Konings, Seidel, and van Merrienboer 2014, Chin,
This approach focuses therefore on the
technology conception, on ergonomic improvements
and on support to collaboration between designers
and end users. In this context, ergonomic approaches
intend to prescribe recommendations and guidelines
for designers in terms of technological adaption to
users ‘needs. However, these studies remain focused
on the functional aspects and on the performance of
users with the system. In addition, participatory
design, mostly applied in industry, is less adopted by
the stakeholders in digital education. This is due, on
one side, to the difficulty and high cost of putting
participatory design into practice and, on the other
side, to the diversity of educational contexts and high
number of schools, with their own autonomy and
specific organization which make technological
generalization difficult.
1.3 Appropriation and Situated
Acceptance Models
To address these limitations, the socio constructivist
approaches (Engestrom, 1987, Engestrom,
Mietinnen, and Punamaki, 1999) propose to take
account of the modalities of use and features of the
context in order to explain why and how a technology
is accepted by users. The notion of appropriation is
central. According to Engestrom (1987), a tool is not
A Triangulated Model to Assess Adoption of Virtual Learning Environments in Primary Schools
appropriated on neutral ground, but as part of a
history of practices and a pre-existing culture.
Engestrom proposes the notion of activity system,
made up of a subject, a technological artefact, an
object of activity, a community, operating rules, and
a division of labour between the community
members. In the school system, a new technology
enters a context in which tools already exist –
blackboards, pencils and textbooks, etc. – and have
formatted how teachers work. The new tool may also
alter the relationships between community members
(teachers, students and parents). This confrontation
between the new technology and the existing cultural-
historical background can give rise to tensions or
contradictions. These tensions favour and trigger
innovation and change and are a source of
development. The term “contradiction” should not be
understood as a problem, barrier or conflict but in
terms of development and progress.
According to Jonsson (2007), appropriation is
“the gradual process by which participants
successively become more proficient in using the
tools” (p. 11) Unlike mastery, which entails the
acquisition of a skill, appropriation, in addition to a
technical skill, includes the competence to use the
technology for carrying out an authentic task in a
given context. As such, appropriation is thought to be
strongly linked to the notion of change. Using a text
editor at school changes practices very little, but
being able to modify a digital text without having to
copy it out can change the importance traditionally
attached to writing.
Bobillier-Chaumon (2016) considers that the
appropriation of a technological tool is a condition of
its acceptance. When someone appropriates a tool,
she contributes to it and is able to innovate, and
therefore use the tool for previously unforeseen
purposes. By making this contribution to the
technology, the person can identify with it, make it
her own, give it meaning and therefore accept it.
Bobillier-Chaumon proposes the notion of situated
acceptance, defined “as the way in which an
individual – or a group or organization – perceives the
issues related to these technologies (strengths,
benefits, risks, opportunity) through their use in
everyday situations, and reacts to them (favourably or
not).” (Bobillier-Chaumon and Dubois, 2009). What
is taken into account here is the experience in a
situation of interaction between users and a certain
technology that already exists. In this approach, the
object of study is not the perception or attitude
towards technology but the practices and activities
carried out as part of a real job.
The advantage of this approach is that it brings
into light for the first time dimensions like “history”
and “context” and proposes to look for acceptance
directly in daily activities of end users. Methodology
consists of qualitative studies (case studies, activity
analysis, and elicitation interviews), small samplings
and a certain “opening” of the researchers: they do not
depend on a priori hypothesis. Their
recommendations are highly adapted to the situation
and identify issues that are not previously visible or
expected. The main criticism rely on the fact that
situated acceptance models focus on specific
situations and it may be difficult to replicate them in
other contexts. Therefore, we propose in this article a
prospective model to evaluate acceptance, which
could be used in different educational contexts.
We have identified three categories of approaches.
The first, social acceptance, focuses on the individual
perceptions and attitudes of prospective users; the
second, practical acceptance, concentrates on the
tool’s ergonomic characteristics; and the third
analyses users’ activities and hence the interaction
between the technology and actual practices. In our
study, we need to evaluate the acceptance of a VLE,
a complex tool designed for multiple user groups
(teachers, students and parents) to perform diverse
tasks in a range of contexts (communication, learning,
monitoring, etc.). Consequently, we consider that
acceptance is a process that can be evaluated through
three sets of factors:
Technological factors grouped in system
quality factors (like usability) and design
quality factors (participatory design)
Activity and task factors related to
characteristics of professional activity like
rules, prescriptions, professional practices,
Perception factors related to individual
opinions about the qualities of the technology
(perceived ease of use, satisfaction, perceived
In the above diagram (Figure 1), the single arrow
indicates a one-way relationship between the two
factor categories. The double arrow indicates a two-
way relationship. The technological factors (quality
of the product, quality of support) influence the
perceptions of the tool, which in turn influence the
tool’s appropriation and acceptance. For their part,
CSEDU 2016 - 8th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
Figure 1: Model of VLE adoption: factors involved in the acceptance and appropriation of VLEs.
the activity and task factors (activity, practices,
community) also influence the perception factors.
The creation of technology’s meaning is made during
the actual use. The use trials influence significantly
the level of technology acceptation and appropriation.
The quality of use will build a new form of
appropriation (by creating new forms of practices and
innovative use) and acceptance (through the lens of
new emotions and new benefits related to use). These
two constructs will modify the initial perception of
the technology and the users’ perceptions on their
technological skills. The retroactive loop describes
how appropriation (seen as mastery of the tool plus
innovation) is decisive for the acceptance of the tool
(seen as the subjective decision to start using the
technology) and vice versa.
It is a dynamic model that may enable the plurality
of viewpoints and situations to be reconstructed.
Dynamism of the model is important for explaining
the principles of technology adoption through
articulation of factors issued of different theoretical
approaches. This model may restore a diversity of
points of view and situations and the formalisation of
factors’ progression in context. In order to deepen this
approach and qualify the criteria of each factor, we
propose to use triangulated methods (Denzin, 1978)
which consists in using more than one method to
study a phenomenon. So, our model is based on a
theory triangulation (using more than one theoretical
scheme to interpret a phenomenon) and a
methodological triangulation (using more than one
method to study a phenomenon). In terms of
methodology, we propose a triangulation consisting
of qualitative methods (interviews, elicitation
interviews, content analysis) and quantitative
methods (questionnaires, analysis of connection
We intend to illustrate this model in a new study.
This research will include three different approaches:
1. an evaluation of the platform’s ergonomics through
user tests; 2. an evaluation of teachers and parents’
perceptions about the VLE through questionnaires;
and 3. an analysis of activities realised on the VLE by
teachers, students and parents through thematic
analysis of contributions made on VLE and
interviews. In the first approach we intend to see if
the VLE used is easy to use and adapt to the public,
especially the young children. The other objective is
to produce recommendations to designers in order to
ameliorate the solution if needed. The second
approach aims at collecting users’ opinions about the
VLE, on different criteria: perceived ease of use,
satisfaction, usefulness in theirs activities, perceived
security. The third approach consists of analysing real
activities realised by teachers, students and parents
with the VLE. The objective is to see how exactly
they adapt the technology to their practices, and on
what type of activities appropriation is constructed.
For instance, we are interested to know if the teachers
prefer using the VLE in order to provide
communication and collaboration with parents or to
realise pedagogical tasks with students. In Figure 2
we can see an example of a pedagogical contribution
of a 7 years aged student, made on the VLE ONE.
These answers may help us know what the priorities
of users are and how they relate to the technology
when it is first introduce, what use they represent in
first and what activity they experiment. The
advantage of this kind of model is that it proposes a
large exploration of the subject of acceptance,
through different angles of research and
complementary methods (qualitative and
quantitative). Another advantage is the fact that it
may restore multiple points of view of educational
community members: teachers, students and parents
and the relation between these members. It permits a
A Triangulated Model to Assess Adoption of Virtual Learning Environments in Primary Schools
focus on different actors and their specific needs and
Figure.2: Example of pedagogical use of the Multimedia
Notebook on VLE ONE.
In this paper we presented three important models in
the study of technological adoption. The three models
have their origins in different fields of research. The
models of “social acceptance”, like TAM and
UTAUT were inspired by social psychology but
applied to management and marketing studies. The
“practical acceptance” theories are specific to
ergonomists and designers. And finally, models of
“situated acceptance” are also issued from
development psychology and lately applied to various
fields, from change management to organization
issues. The technological adoption issue is of general
interest and should not be limited to one singular
approach. Our objective was to resume these various
models and to extract information that is salient for
educational area. Factors like usability for young
children, teachers’ confidence in their computer use
skills, teacher’s perceived security toward children’s
use and preexistent teaching practices are example of
important determinants of technology adoption in
schools. The proposed model represent a first
theoretical proposition and it will subsequently be
validated in specific studies.
This paper has been conducted in the context of a Phd
thesis which was funded by the company
WebServices pour l’Education, Paris, France and
supported by ANRT France (Association Nationale
de la Recherche et de la Technologie). The VLE
studied is called ONE (http://one1d.fr/en/home-
page/) and it was specifically designed for an
elementary school audience, with ergonomics and
interfaces that are suitable for children. It is currently
used by primary schools in France and South
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