Trends in Technology Skills and Internet Usage in Selected European Business Schools

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ABSTRACT

Due to the constant and rapid evolution of technology, universities are caught in an on-going balancing act. Universities must provide students with current technology to enhance technical skills as well as keep up with computer hardware and software upgrades. Schools must also provide for instruction and instructional materials that further the knowledge and skills students possess (Holmes, 1999). The current research investigates the technology skills and Internet usage of students enrolled in a cross-section of business classes at selected European universities. Research results indicate that computer use does not vary significantly among the surveyed European business schools. However, there are significant differences in computer ownership by the students. There are also significant differences in access to the Internet by students from inside, as well as outside, their respective universities.

INTRODUCTION

The technologies underlying the Internet and telecommunications have increased information flow among countries, thus speeding globalization. At the same time, the spread of free markets has promoted greater competition worldwide, creating strong incentives for domestic producers to adopt new technologies. International change and competition have created a need for workers who are educated and highly skilled. According to Sabo (1999) technology rules how business is conducted. The Web enables the delivery of highly personalized, individual products in a timely manner. In addition to demanding increased skills, employers will also demand a more flexible workforce (Editor-1, 2000).

The pervasiveness of microcomputers in the business world places increased importance on the implementation of technology in higher education. A primary objective of university business schools is to prepare students for the world of business by giving them theories and tangible skills that can be applied to their future careers (Levsen and Goettel, 1997). Students must become lifelong learners of information in regard to emerging technologies (Rath, 1999). Because the importance of technology skills is widely accepted, governments are advancing agendas to enable students to become computer literate (Eisenberg and Johnson, 1996).

Literacy Defined

Computer literacy can be defined as an understanding of basic hardware configurations and knowledge of applications software commonly used in the work environment. Information technology literacy includes the managerial, organizational, and social issues involved in the use of computers in information systems. Information technology literacy encompasses computer literacy (Levsen and Goettel, 1997).

Bruce (1999) broadly defines information literacy as "the ability to recognize information needs and identify, evaluate and use information effectively". The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) defines information literacy as a set of abilities requiring individuals to "recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information"(ACRL, 2002). Society is faced with a challenge due to the uncertain quality and expanding quantity of information. An informed citizenry is not created by the sheer abundance of information. Citizens must be equipped with a complementary cluster of abilities that enable them to use information effectively (ACRL, 2002).

Information literacy forms the basis of life-long learning and is common to all disciplines. Although a significant overlap exists with information technology, information literacy is a distinct and broader area of competence. Developing life-long learning skills is central to the mission of higher education institutions (ACRL, 2002).

European Commission's Initiative

The European Commission's (EC's) "Action Plan for eEurope" states "that by the end of 2002 it will create the foundation needed to bring Internet access to every European citizen, school and business" (DeBony, 2000). …