Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

The Impact of Computer Literacy on Student Academic Performance in the Introductory Management Information Systems Course

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

The Impact of Computer Literacy on Student Academic Performance in the Introductory Management Information Systems Course

Article excerpt

COMPUTER LITERACY AND PERFORMANCE

"Computer literacy" is a commonly used term in the business world, but it is not precisely defined. Computer literacy, in general, is being knowledgeable about the computer and its applications (Rochester & Rochester, 1991). Such knowledge appears to have two dimensions: conceptual, and operational (Winter, Chudoba, & Gutek,1997). The conceptual dimension includes an understanding of the inner workings of a computer or general computer terminology. Without such knowledge a user would find it difficult to figure out any system problems, or to learn to adapt quickly to new systems or software. The operational dimension refers to the necessary skills a user acquires, through training and practice, in order to operate specific systems to complete specific tasks.

While prior research did not evaluate the performance impact of computer literacy empirically, there is evidence that such a performance impact is likely to be task-dependent (Goodhue & Thompson, 1995; Lonstreet & Sorant, 1985; Rhodes, 1985; Thompson, Higgins, & Howell, 1994). For example, if we considered a student to be highly computer literate because s/he demonstrated a high level of proficiency in using a word processor or a spreadsheet program, we would also expect the student to perform well on tasks involving the use of a word processor or a spreadsheet program. We could not predict, however, how the student would perform on tasks involving the use of a database program, if s/he had not received training in database software. This leads us to the following hypothesis:

H1: Students' task performance will be positively correlated with their level of computer literacy, if the same type of software is involved in assessing their level of computer literacy and their task performance.

Winter, Chudoba, and Gutek (1997) use the notion of "functional computer literacy" to argue that a user needs both the conceptual and operational knowledge to perform effectively and productively in various white-collar work settings. A truly "computer fluent" user, they contend, does not simply memorize the correct sequence of keystrokes or mouse clicks. Rather, the user must form an internal representation of the system's structure and functions. Indeed, there is consistent research evidence that links a user's valid mental models of a system to better task performance (Foss & DeRidder, 1988; Booth, 1989; Sein & Bostrom, 1990; Weller, Repman, Lan, & Rooze, 1995). Within the context of computer literacy training, we would therefore expect students to form useful mental models of a computer system based on their conceptual knowledge of the system, and to be able to transfer that knowledge to tasks in an unfamiliar hardware/software environment. This leads us to a second hypothesis:

H2: Students' task performance will be positively correlated with their level of computer literacy, even if the task involves the use of unfamiliar software.

The foregoing arguments suggest that the performance impact of students' computer literacy depends on the nature of the task. More specifically, it depends on whether the task involves the transfer and application of the conceptual and operational knowledge obtained from their computer literacy training and practice. This gives rise to a third hypothesis:

H3: Students' task performance will have no correlation with their level of computer literacy, if the task does not require the use of their conceptual or operational knowledge of the computer hardware/software.

METHOD

A multiple regression analysis was applied to assess the significance of students' level of computer literacy in predicting their task performance. In addition to the primary independent variable, level of computer literacy, the analysis also included two other independent variables: gender, and grade point average.

A number of prior studies have investigated the impact of student gender as a predictor of academic performance, but the results appear inconclusive. …

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