Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

A Comparison of Student Perceptions of Their Computer Skills to Their Actual Abilities

Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

A Comparison of Student Perceptions of Their Computer Skills to Their Actual Abilities

Article excerpt


Information Technology (IT) has changed and continues to change the way we live, do business, and interact socially. IT is undergoing rapid change. New and improved technological advances appear almost daily. Most jobs require personnel to have some level of interaction and expertise with IT. These technologies are intricately woven into businesses, including healthcare industry's use of electronic medical records, manufacturing industry's use of automated production lines, banking industry's use of online banking, and restaurant and food industries' use of computerized ordering and tracking systems.

If the U.S. is to remain competitive in an ever-increasing global economy, then it becomes increasingly important to hire workers who are adequately prepared to utilize current and future information technology. In order to build and sustain information technology proficiency, people must have formal and informal opportunities to interact with computers. Early development of computer literacy may be as critical as reading and writing literacy.

Computer literacy is defined as "an understanding of computer characteristics, capabilities, and applications, as well as an ability to implement this knowledge in the skillful, productive use of computer applications suitable to individual roles in society" (Simonson, Mauer, Toradi, & Whitaker, 1987). Computer proficiency is the knowledge and ability to use specific computer applications (spreadsheet, word processors, etc.). Computer literacy and proficiency are often used interchangeably; however, it is our belief that increasing computer proficiency positively impacts computer literacy.

Educators recognize the need to increase the proficiency skill levels of all students pertaining to information technology. Most courses now strive to incorporate information technology into all aspects of the learning continuum. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 requires assessments in order for U.S. kindergarten through twelfth grade (K-12) school systems to receive federal funding (No Child Left Behind [NCLB], 2008). In North Carolina, starting with the Class of 2001, students are required to pass a computer literacy assessment in order to complete twelfth grade and graduate from high school (North Carolina Online Test of Computer Skills, 2007). Therefore, it is assumed that every student in North Carolina entering college has some basic computer proficiency skills.

Many college freshmen have a basic perception about their computer proficiency skills that is affected by not only passing a required assessment but also by their prior computer experiences. Students that are required to take an introductory computer applications course at the college level often feel that the course is not necessary since they have previously passed an assessment in K-12 or had a computer course in high school (9th--12th grade). Additionally, many educators have a perception that students are becoming more computer literate. Universities must make a determination as to the accuracy of these perceptions in order to adjust the curriculum so that students are adequately prepared and challenged.

In many U.S. business schools, the Information System (IS) discipline delivers an introductory information technology course. Often this course serves as the only required information technology course for business students. The goals of most introductory computer applications courses are to familiarize incoming college freshmen with computer operating systems, fundamental and intermediate word processing commands, spreadsheet applications, presentation graphics, and database management. These skills are necessary to successfully matriculate throughout the business school, as well as to compete and secure future employment (Keengwe, 2007). However, if the educators' perceptions are correct and, in fact, students are more computer literate, then educators must adjust the delivery of this introductory course accordingly or eliminate it all together (Wallace & Clariana, 2005). …

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