Improving Computer Literacy of Business Management Majors: A Case Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

A recent study by School of Business faculty members at Utah Valley State College (UVSC) found that there was a decrease in students' level of computer literacy in some areas as students moved from their freshman year to their senior year. Findings further suggested that these students had minimal requirements to use computer technology (other than word processing and presentation software) in their core business classes. This paper further describes these findings and presents a procedural framework developed by the authors for improving students' computer literacy before they enter the job market.

Different groups of people--students, teachers, and employers--have different ideas about what computer literacy means. In fact, these definitions of computer literacy have evolved with time as technology improved and society became more dependent on computers (Hoffman & Blake, 2003). Some 50 years ago when a computer nearly filled a room, computer literacy meant being able to program a computer. Today, when the vast majority of households own one or more personal computers that fit on a desk top or on a lap, the definition of "computer literacy" has much less to do with programming and much more to do with using the computer. Owens (2003) identifies database concepts, general computer concepts, Internet concepts, presentations, spreadsheets, web authoring, word processing, and ethics as key areas of computer literacy. Other definitions of computer literacy focus on two areas: "whatever a person needs to know and do with computers in order to function competently in our society" and "a measure of competency to exploit computer technology" (Halaris & Sloan, 1985). The search for computer literacy has its beginning in elementary school (Albee, 2003; Asan, 2003) and continues through high school. In addition, computer literacy has now become a global issue (Asan, 2003; Csapo, 2002).

Terms such as computer competency, computer proficiency, and computer literacy tend to be used interchangeably. Although each of these terms represents fundamental computer skills, this is not the end goal. The notion of information literacy builds upon computer literacy. As Murray (2003) points out, to be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information. Vitolo & Coulston (2002) also point out the link between information literacy and the use of information systems.

Regardless of the terminology--it is important that business students' computer skills improve as they move through their college education and that the skills they learn are what employers need them to have. The issue of who is responsible for ensuring literacy is decades old (Hartman, 1983) and even more important today.

Problem Identification and Verification

Since computer and information literacy are key attributes of well-prepared college graduates, the question of who is responsible for ensuring such literacy is important. For those universities or colleges that have an institutional computer literacy requirement, it seems clear that an interdisciplinary approach is best. For those institutions without an overall computer literacy requirement, the responsibility rests within the colleges/schools which do have such a requirement. This latter situation is the case for this paper. The ideas presented, however, are applicable to any setting.

All two-year and four-year degrees in the School of Business at UVSC require computer competency in one form or another as a prerequisite for matriculating into these programs, although this study focuses on students in the four-year Business Management degree. In order to meet this need, the Computer Information Systems (CIS) Department within the School of Business offers students a series of course modules that teach the techniques and concepts needed to pass these hands-on tests at a level of 80 % or higher. …