Assessing attitudes toward computers and the use of Internet resources among undergraduate microbiology students

Delia Marie Castro Anderson

Abstract

Computer literacy and use have become commonplace in our colleges and universities. In an environment that demands the use of technology, educators should be knowledgeable of the components that make up the overall computer attitude of students and be willing to investigate the processes and techniques of effective teaching and learning that can take place with computer technology. The purpose of this study is two fold. First, it investigates the relationship between computer attitudes and gender, ethnicity, and computer experience. Second, it addresses the question of whether, and to what extent, students' attitudes toward computers change over a 16 week period in an undergraduate microbiology course that supplements the traditional lecture with computer-driven assignments. Multiple regression analyses, using data from the Computer Attitudes Scale (Loyd & Loyd, 1985), showed that, in the experimental group, no significant relationships were found between computer anxiety and gender or ethnicity or between computer confidence and gender or ethnicity. However, students who used computers the longest ( p = .001) and who were self-taught (p = .046) had the lowest computer anxiety levels. Likewise students who used computers the longest (p = .001) and who were self-taught (p = .041) had the highest confidence levels. No significant relationships between computer liking, usefulness, or the use of Internet resources and gender, ethnicity, or computer experience were found. Dependent T-tests were performed to determine whether computer attitude scores (pretest and posttest) increased over a 16-week period for students who had been exposed to computer-driven assignments and other Internet resources. Results showed that students in the experimental group were less anxious about working with computers and considered computers to be more useful. In the control group, no significant changes in computer anxiety, confidence, liking, or usefulness were noted. Overall, students in the experimental group, who responded to the use of Internet Resources Survey, were positive (mean of 3.4 on the 4-point scale) toward their use of Internet resources which included the online courseware developed by the researcher. Findings from this study suggest that (1) the digital divide with respect to gender and ethnicity may be narrowing, and (2) students who are exposed to a course that augments computer-driven courseware with traditional teaching methods appear to have less anxiety, have a clearer perception of computer usefulness, and feel that online resources enhance their learning.