The Impact of Students' Perceived Computer Experience on Behavior and Performance in an Introductory Information Systems Course

Article excerpt


The introductory information systems (IS) course is a key component both of business school curricula and of the curriculum for IS majors. It is extraordinarily important that it is successfully taught, both because it is often the only opportunity for many business students to acquire the fundamentals of IS use and because it is a major recruiting gateway to the IS major. Yet there are many difficulties with this course in particular. Its content varies greatly across schools, it is often staffed by adjunct professors, it must accommodate very large numbers of students, and its method of delivery is continuously evolving. One of the difficulties most often cited by faculty who conduct research regarding this course is the variability in students' computer experience, both real and perceived, which makes it very difficult to know how to design a course that is appealing and useful to all their students (Case et al. 2004; Dettori et al. 2005; Dyer et al. 2004; VanLengen & Haney 2005).

It is likely that any professor who has taught the introductory IS course has heard the following pronouncement from a student: "I'm not going to do well in this class because everyone else knows a lot more about computers than I do." Its opposite is also fairly frequently expressed: "I'm going to ace this course because I know tons about computers." It is clear that students often evaluate their own chances for success in the introductory IS course on the basis of their perceived previous experience with computers. Although some universities have decided to permit students to opt out of their introductory IS courses on the basis of computer literacy testing results (Gillard 2000; Low et al. 2001; Pierce et al. 2001; Stephens & Shotick 2002; Wallace & Clariana 2005), many other schools still require all students, no matter their prior computer experience, to take the same introductory course (Baugh 2003; Dwyer & Knapp 2004; Kruck & Lending 2003; McDonald & Viscelli 2005). This creates the need to determine how students with varied computing backgrounds respond to and perform in the introductory course.

The setting of this study was the introductory IS course in the College of Business at a private, medium-sized Midwestern university. The course was a required sophomore-level course for the College of Business and typically had an enrollment of 250 to 350 students per semester. It was a three credit course, consisting of both lab and lecture components. The two components represented, respectively, the IS 2002. PO (Personal Productivity with IS Technology) course and the IS 2002.1 (Fundamentals of Information Systems) course from the IS 2002 Model Curriculum.


2.1 Perceived computer experience.

The phrase "perceived computer experience" is used in this paper because the intent is to measure the impact of participants' perceptions of their computer experience on their behavior and performance in an introductory IS course. A large literature exists that suggests students' perceptions of their computer experience influence their behavior in the course because they rely on these beliefs when making decisions about their actions (Levine & Donitsa-Schmidt 1997; Levine & Donitsa-Schmidt 1998; Low et al. 2002; Smith et al. 1999; Smith et al. 2000). Furthermore, several studies have shown that students' perceptions are strongly, but not perfectly, correlated with their actual computer experience (Case et al. 2004; Compton et al. 2002; Dyer et al. 2004; Jones & Pearson 1996; Levine & Donitsa-Schmidt 1998; Pierce et al. 2001).

Definitions of perceived computer experience have been varied and have ranged from participants' reports of their mastery of certain computer skills or applications (Cassidy & Eachus 2002; Havelka 2003; Hindi et al. 2002; Low et al. 2002; Wiedenbeck 2005), to the number of years or hours they have spent on the computer (Case et al. …


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