Influence of Locus of Control and Computer Skills on the Use of Internet Resources by Undergraduate Students in Nigerian Universities

Article excerpt

Introduction

University students have been at the forefront of social change since the end of World War II. They were among the first in the United States to use the Internet for communication, recreation, and file sharing, and the first to have regular broadband Internet access (The Chronicle of Higher Education, Almanac Issue 2001-2). Internet use first became widespread on university campuses in the 1990s, and in many ways the Internet is a direct outcome of university-based research. Yahoo, Napster, and many other Internet tools were created by university students, while the vast majority of university students are simply Internet users, as a group they can be considered pioneers.

A survey carried out in USA (Rainie and Packel 2001) shows that the demographic profile of today's university students is not much changed over the past decade. One characteristic that sets them apart from past generations of university students is their degree of familiarity with the Internet. Most of the 18-year-old university first year students of today were born years after the personal computer was introduced to the public, and they are less aware of a "pre-Internet" world as they are of one in which the Internet also called the "Net" is central to their communication. A count put the number of Internet users in United States at over 104 million and everyday, 50 million Americans go online (Rainie and Packel 2001). Statistics show that Africa as a continent has recorded an Internet user growth of 171.4% between year 2000 - 2004, but accounts for only 1.5% of the world Internet usage. Asia is at the foremost with 32.0%, while North America and Europe has 28.1% and 27.9% respectively of the Internet users in the world (Fatoki, 2004).

The Internet, sometimes called simply "the Net," is a worldwide system of computer networks--a network of networks in which users at any one computer can, if they have permission, get information from any other computer (and sometimes talk directly to users at other computers). It was conceived by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the U.S. government in 1969 and was first known as the ARPANET. The original aim was to create a network that would allow users of a research computer at one university to be able to "talk to" research computers at other universities (The Internet Society, 2002).

The Internet can now be accessed virtually anywhere by numerous means. Mobile phones, data cards, handheld game consoles and cellular routers allow users to connect to the Internet from anywhere there is a cellular network supporting that device's technology. Other Internet resources include email, www (World Wide Web), file sharing, streaming media, collaboration, remote access, voice telephony, webcams and so on. Studies done on the use of Internet resources among Nigerian students show that the use of computer and the Internet to aid their academic activities is gradually becoming acceptable but the students have not fully used these facilities (Ajuwon, 2003).

Literature has shown that the use of Internet by students can be influenced by certain variables like demographic characteristics such as age, sex, marital status, educational qualification, computer skills, accessibility to computer and the Internet. In addition, Katz (1998) indicated that student attitudes such as self-image, social-image, self-confidence, locus of control, satisfaction, and motivation are those, which lay the foundation and contribute towards the willingness of students to use information and communication technology in learning.

Basic personal computer skills are prerequisite to using the Internet, though in practice these skills are often acquired together, as the popularity of the Internet motivates many adults to use computers for the first time. Motor skills (learning to use a keyboard, learning to manipulate a mouse) and perceptual skills (learning to associate images and events on the computer screen with motor actions) form the most elementary substrate. …