Effects of Information Technology Usage on Student Learning - an Empirical Study in the United States

Article excerpt

The purpose of this research was to investigate if computer use increases active engagement in the learning process, as perceived by students. Two aspects of learning were examined: active engagement of students in the learning process, and student interaction with fellow students and/or instructors. In a survey of 640 community college students in the United States, 75 % either agreed or strongly agreed that use of IT helped them to be more actively engaged in learning, whilst 72 % agreed or strongly agreed that computers made it easier for them to understand materials that they did not understand initially. Tests of significance showed that use of computers helped students in being more actively engaged in learning, and that the use of computers increased student interactions with fellow students and/or instructors. The implications of the results for effective teaching practice are discussed in the paper.

Introduction

Information technology affects every corner of college campuses, from instruction to student services and from business processes to staff development. Availability of personal computers in the 1980s and the Internet resources in the 1990s has brought tremendous transformation on how students learn in traditional learning environment. Information technology (IT) tools are being increasingly used in educational institutions to facilitate student learning. Institutions are spending financial resources to update IT infrastructure on an annual basis. While the use of computers prepares future college graduates with the essential skills needed for employment, it is also important to find out if such uses affect positively student learning in classrooms and courses. Though there are differences of opinion as to whether IT has any positive impact on learning, it is true that computer usage continues to increase in educational institutions. Most people believe that computer tools play a positive role in learning at all levels of education. The objective of this research is to determine, from students' perspectives, if computers help student learning.

Background

Researchers have been divided in their opinions on whether IT affects positively student learning. Studies conducted over the years have come up with different results. More recent studies (between 2000 and 2005) have concluded that significant differences exist in student learning due to IT while earlier research came up with a different conclusion.

It is easy to understand the reasons for these differences in conclusions. Students started using Personal Computers (PCs) in early 1980s and the Internet in the early 1990s. Over the years, use of IT tools became more and more widespread and students started becoming more and more comfortable using such technologies. Additionally, instructors began to incorporate computers in their courses and require students to use computers in completing their assignments.

The argument on the use of technology vis-à-vis student learning is ongoing. Mellon (1996) concluded that the great pendulum of education was focused on technology. Clark (1994) and Garcia (2000) questioned the findings of research that demonstrated the relationship between technology and learning effectiveness. Anglin and Morrison (2000), Diaz (2000), Joy and Garcia (2000) and Saba (2000) believed that the quantitative methods were not used correctly in determining the effectiveness of learning in relation to learning media. Clark (1994) concluded that the media could never influence learning, specifically student learning. Joy and Garcia (2000) came to the conclusion that much of the literature found no significant difference in student learning between technologybased and conventional delivery media.

Other researchers believe that use of computer technologies has positive implications for student learning. Leach (2005) studied the increasing use of information technology in students' learning experiences, on campus and on-line, including e-mail, web pages, chat rooms, presentation software, wireless networks, computer simulations, virtual reality, laptops in classrooms, hybrid classes and e-books. …