Technology access and self-efficacy as factors of adult participation in a post-secondary online learning environment

Helen Annette Jones

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between technology and the participation of adults in postsecondary education. During the Spring 2004 semester, a "Technology Use and Attitude Survey" was mailed to 700 adult undergraduate students at The University of Southern Mississippi. The survey was conducted to address whether attitudes and access associated with the use of technology are factors related to participation in higher education among adult learners. The five-part survey addressed computer access, computer experience, computer attitude and perception, online course participation, and demographic background. A Pearson's Correlation was used to test hypothesis one concerning the relationship between access to technology and participation in online courses. Nine variables were found to be significant at the .05 probability level. However, Multiple Regression yielded a low accounting of variance. Hypothesis two proposed a relationship between the learner's computer self-efficacy and participation in online courses. The results of a Pearson's Correlation test between the Computer Attitude and Perception Total score and Online Course Completion indicated a statistically significant relationship but with a very low magnitude of effect. Hypothesis three considered whether differences in demographic background contributed to access to technology. Singles tend to spend more time on the Internet than do married individuals. African-Americans spend more time on the Internet than Caucasians. Respondents with parents who graduated from a four-year college or university spent more hours per week on the computer in addition to spending more time on the Internet. Younger respondents tended to be more experienced with Internet applications than were older individuals. Those employed full-time had greater computer access, spent more hours on the computer and the Internet and had greater overall computer experience. Hypothesis four tested differences between demographic background and learner's computer self-efficacy. Results indicated that sociodemographic background had very little relationship with self-efficacy. Overall, technology issues appear to offer only a small explanation of students' interests in online courses and do not seem to be a significant deterrent to participation. It is recommended that educators consider offering online courses to expand educational access to non-traditional learners.