Computer Anxiety and Performance: An Application of a Change Model in a Pedagogical Setting

By Desai, Mayur S. | Journal of Instructional Psychology, September 2001 | Go to article overview

Computer Anxiety and Performance: An Application of a Change Model in a Pedagogical Setting


Desai, Mayur S., Journal of Instructional Psychology


This paper identifies the computer anxiety - performance effects and a means of implementing change to improve learning by applying a change management model. An application of the process and outcomes, guided by hypotheses on the computer anxiety - performance linkage, is analyzed. The pedagogical intervention results indicated a drop in the computer anxiety level of students in a beginning course on computers in business, nevertheless, with a negative finding of performance. Implications and suggestions are offered.

Computer literacy and learning in the higher education curriculum has become imperative in view of the pervasiveness of computer applications at the workplace. However, being a recent phenomenon, students, both the traditional high school graduates and the returning adults, find computer learning rather stressful. The stress due to the cognitive as well as psychological factors is identified as "Computer Anxiety" (Desai & Richards 1998). Consequently, the adverse effects of such computer anxiety on student performance must be recognized and remedial actions taken to mitigate the effects.

This paper reports an application of a change management process to a class on computers in business. The students are treated by a pedagogical intervention in attempts to reduce computer anxiety and improve their learning and performance in the course. The paper is organized as follows: (1) a model linking computer anxiety and performance; (2) a change process to weaken the negative effects in the linkage; (3) an application; and (4) discussion and implications.

Computer Anxiety - Performance Effects: A Model

Previous research findings have indicated that math anxiety is correlated to computer anxiety (Camber & Cook 1985, Igbaria & Parasuraman 1989, Sievert, et al. 1988, Shashaani 1995) and that computer anxiety is similar to test anxiety (Camber & Cook 1985, Fletcher & Deeds 1994, Todman & Lawrenson 1992). Computer anxiety may actually be a manifestation of test anxiety [8]. Hence, Desai and Richards (1998) used these correlations to establish the relationship between (1) math anxiety and performance, (2) math anxiety and computer anxiety and (3) computer anxiety and performance. In a meta-analysis, these authors found inverse relationships between math anxiety and performance and between math anxiety and computer anxiety. Consequently, it could be concluded that a negative relationship exists between computer anxiety and performance. However, current research evidence does not consistently indicate such a direct, linear negative correlation. Based on the subjects' self-perceptions and experience, some found a negative correlation (Hayek & Stephens 1989), Harrington 1988, George et al. 1992). Others found no relationship (Ward 1989, Dimock & Cornier 1991). Yet some of these authors (Hayek & Stephens 1989, Dimock & Cornier 1991) and others (Vogel 1994, Compeau & Higgens 1995, Bronson 1998) found other intervening or moderating variables influencing both positively and negatively. For example, computer anxiety discouraged computer use (Compeau & Higgens 1995, Bronson 1998) resulting in poor performance (Compeau & Higgens 1995). Extroverts and those with low computer anxiety had negative effects on performance (Vogel 1994). Students with positive attitudes towards computer performed better (Hayek & Stephens 1989, Dimock & Cornier 1991, Munger & Loyd 1989, Ferguson 1997). Lastly, a more complex relationship was found between computer anxiety and performance (Ferguson 1997). Another study found that the level of computer anxiety and perceived advantage rather than ease of use of computers contributed to computer ability (Marcolin et al. 1997).

The relationship between computer anxiety and performance is similar to the relationships previously found between goal setting and performance (Locke 1967) and stress and performance (Quick & quick 1984, Spector et al. …

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