Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Development of the Web Users Self-Efficacy Scale (WUSE)

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Development of the Web Users Self-Efficacy Scale (WUSE)

Article excerpt

Introduction

In their exploration of factors affecting the success of online learning, Blocher, Sujo de Momtes, Willis & Tucker (2002) considered whether online learners need specific skills and strategies to be successful. They examined factors including cognitive and metacognitive learning strategies and motivation and found that the online programme included in their study tended to attract students who were young and who were confident in their technology skills. Cassidy and Eachus (2002) have also identified confidence, or self-efficacy, as a pertinent factor in the context of computer use, with higher levels of computer user self-efficacy associated with greater self-rated computer competency and experience. Computer user self-efficacy relates specifically to an individual's judgement of their capabilities to use computers and is derived from Bandura's (1986) social cognitive theory in which he defines the general construct of self-efficacy as "peoples judgements of their capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performances. It is concerned not with the skills one has but with the judgements of what one can do with whatever skills one posses" (p.391). Simplified, self-efficacy represents an individual's beliefs regarding their perceived capability to successfully complete a particular behaviour or task. The impact of positive and negative self-efficacy beliefs has been demonstrated in a range of contexts including academic achievement (; Cassidy & Eachus, 2000; Eachus, 1993; Eachus & Cassidy, 1997), health behaviour (Bandura, 1986; Schwarzer, 1992), stock market investment (Eachus, 1994) as well as more recently computer use (Cassidy & Eachus, 2002).

Within the context of computer use, positive self-efficacy has been shown to be related to willingness to choose and participate in computer-based activities, expectations of success, perseverance when faced with difficulties and computer-based performance (Holcomb, Brown, Kulikowich & Zheng, 2003). The effects of both gender and experience with computers have also been reported, with males and experienced computer users showing higher levels of computer user self-efficacy (Cassidy & Eachus, 2002).

According to Bandura (1986), self-efficacy beliefs develop is response to four sources of information: previous experience (success and failure), vicarious experience; (observing others successes and failures); verbal persuasion (from peers, colleagues, relatives); and affective state (emotional arousal, e.g. anxiety). Because self-efficacy is based on self-perceptions regarding particular behaviours, the construct is considered to be situation specific or domain sensitive (Cassidy & Eachus, 2002). To illustrate domain sensitivity Cassidy & Eachus (2002) provide the example of an individual who may exhibit high levels of self-efficacy (indicating a high level of confidence) within one domain, for example sport, whilst simultaneously exhibiting low levels of self-efficacy within another domain such as academic ability. Bandura (1986) suggests that the perception that one has the capabilities to perform a task will increase the likelihood that the task will be completed successfully.

It is within the specific context of information and communication technologies and e-learning that the current paper examines self-efficacy beliefs, with specific reference to Internet or web-based resources. We are amidst a revolution involving virtual learning environments and identifying, measuring and manipulating any factor that might impede our access to, utilisation of, or success with virtual learning should be a principal concern of educational research and pedagogical practice.

There are many reasons or factors that make both access to, and utilisation of the Internet both desirable and necessary. Its ubiquitous nature has deemed access to and familiarity with the Internet an assumption of the modern age; not using the net may even be, as suggested by Wolfinbarger, Gilly & Schau (2005), socially undesirable. …

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