Week 13 14 – A4a: UK students and the Net Generation

Selwyn (2008) ‘An investigation of differences in undergraduates’ academic use of the internet’.

In literature review, the author acknowledges that various researchers focused on the differences associated with private/public access to computers and the internet. Access limitations on campus or high costs for private ownership might discourage the use of ICT. Brotcorne (2005) concludes that ‘students’ use or non-use of the internet for their studies is due to matters of ‘digital choice’ rather than ‘digital divide’.

1. As you read make notes about the differences and divisions he finds between students.

‘respondents enjoying ‘private’ access to their own computer more likely to report looking for information about university studies/assignments
than the ten per cent of the student population who were restricted to accessing the internet in shared university settings such as computer rooms or libraries’pg17

Selwyn (2008) has found consistent differences when considering students’ gender and their subject of study;

When compared to males, females were more likely to search for information about their studies or assignments.

2. Like Kennedy et al. (2008), Selwyn identifies a minority of students who are not fully engaged with new technologies. What implications do you think this might have for designing learning environments that make use of new technologies?

Minority of students ‘compromised either by their reliance on shared, public access points (ten per cent of respondents) or by a lack of competence and/or confidence (the one per cent of self-reported ‘novices’).’pg19

These minorities need to kept in mind when designing learning environments which make use of new technologies. As discussed in other activities, learning should be designed in such a way that the learner can choose his own mix.  New technologies might on the other hand be introduced with proper guidelines and constant support from tutors as seen in this week’s activity 3b about wikis. Obviously whilst designing we cannot assume that the learner will adopt other preferred tools if the ones provided are found inadequate.

As designers we should reflect about why not all  the students are engaged with new technologies? Why does the majority of ICT usage occur in specific subjects and mainly from females?

3. Write a short posting setting out your thoughts on Selwyn’s article and the question raised in the previous bullet point. Post this to the tutor group forum. Read other postings and discuss the issues raised.

Selwyn (2008) discussion about undergraduate’s use of the Internet focuses on the differences in terms of gender and subject of study. If I am not mistaken, these traits, particularly females rate of searching online, were not so apparent in other papers we have analaysed so far.

Whilst reading this article I couldn’t but observe that Selwyn’s research methodology is somewhat superficial. Maybe I am having this feeling due to the quantitative method of research he has adopted. Looking at his finding that a higher percentage of females, when compared to males, search for univerity related information, I cannot perceive exactly what this ‘finding’ leads to. Does it mean that this is happeing because males tend to spend more time on online activities or maybe because they use other means to obtain their information or else maybe because they don’t search at all?

The other finding highlighted by Selwyn (2008)is that ICT usage is higher in specific subjects. Selwyn (2008) sees these as  ‘subject-based’ barriers which spread the online divide. Isn’t he a bit catastrophic here? Why not acknowledge that different subjects have different needs, which are then reflected on the skills required in work environment.

Here I think that my problem is more on the methodology used by the researcher rather than the acknowledgment that minorities actually exist even online and therefore these need to kept in mind when designing any learning environments.


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