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Information Science student IT experience and attitude toward computers: results of a five-year longitudinal study

Author(s): Derek Stephens | Claire Creaser

Journal: Innovation in Teaching and Learning in Information and Computer Sciences
ISSN 1473-7507

Volume: 1;
Issue: 2;
Date: 2002;
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Keywords: information science | information technology | IT skills

A decade ago, in 1991, a sample survey of Information Science (IS) students revealed that 22% of the intake had no keyboarding experience at all and that experience with databases and spreadsheets was low. (Stephens & Rowland 1993). A decade later there appears to be a particular expectation among both Information Science and Computing Science staff regarding the level of IT experience of each new undergraduate intake. It is assumed by many that each year will see an increase in the student level of experience and confidence with computers and knowledge of software packages for word-processing, spreadsheets and databases. Indeed, at Loughborough University Department of Information Science the introductory module ‘Applications of IT’ was ended recently. It was felt that students were entering with existing IT skills gained at school, and had more than enough support available via the web, in the form of help and self-directed practical materials. Yet in a more recent study (McMahon et al, 1999) students, once at university, expressed disappointment that staff felt they had sufficient information to make a good attempt at ‘teaching themselves’. Indeed, it was found that only half of the sampled undergraduate students entering university from 1994-1997 had previously received computer training at school. In fact home use played a significant part in providing their IT experience. The survey concluded that university staff felt sufficient initial IT training was available whereas students did not agree. This raises the issue of computer access in households without computers, especially given the government’s expressed policy of widening access to higher education from all sections of society. The implications for mature students who obviously are less likely to have received IT training in school also need to be addressed.
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