A Study of Student and Staff Attitudes to IT
Resources and Increasing C & IT in the Curriculum
Rebecca Osselton BA Hons MSc
The University of Northumbria is
currently in the process of reviewing several online learning systems; one of
which is being trialed internally as part of a Teaching and Learning Technology
Programme Stage 3 project (TLTP3-86). This collaborative research project is
being developed by a consortium of universities, including the University of
Newcastle, Durham, Nottingham and Sheffield; Newcastle being the lead site.
Learning Environment" is being implemented by the University of Northumbria
in the area of Health Sciences Allied to Medicine, although it has primarily
been developed in the context of Medical Schools. One focus of the project is to
evaluate existing Communication and Information Technologies (C&IT) in use
at universities, so that they can be extended and supported.
To meet the aims of the
project, research was undertaken to assess the attitudes of some of the students
at the University of Northumbria to current online resources, in advance of the
introduction of the Networked Learning Environment. Several groups of students
were issued questionnaires, the largest group being those taking the third year
of the Nursing Diploma. Slightly later, staff were also issued a questionnaire
to gauge attitudes towards the increasing use of Communication and Information
Technology in teaching.
The first questionnaire
was formulated and distributed to a selection of students within the Faculty of
Health, Social work and Education based at Coach Lane.
The questionnaire consisted of ten questions designed to provide a
qualitative interpretation of student attitudes to online facilities at the
Coach Lane Campus. The following is a summary of the questions and results.
How would you describe yourself - unfamiliar/computer literate/confident
2. How difficult/easy is
it to find what you want on the system? - easy/takes a little time/quite
Do you enjoy using computers? - yes/indifferent/no
4. What do you think of
the facilities currently available, e.g. University web pages - good,
informative/don't know/not very helpful
Do you ever access Faculty web pages remotely? - yes/no
6. Would you like to
have more interactive learning material available online, e.g. animation/video?
- yes/don't know/no
7. Would you like to see
interactive multiple-choice questions for your course online? - yes/don't
8. Do you generally
prefer printed formats to electronic documents? - yes/don't know/no
How often do you use e-mail? - frequently/sometimes/never
you use e-mail, who is it for? - personal use/to contact tutors
There were 5 main groups surveyed:
Nursing Diploma yr3
MSc Health Studies yr2
International Health and Development Studies yr1
International Health and Development Studies yr2
Occupational Therapy yr3 / Health Sciences
Results by group
There were some generalizations
that could be made from the results of each group. For example, the number of
nurses who described themselves as confident users was very small, only 5% of
the total sampled. 32% of nurses also thought that it was difficult to find
things on the system. Their response to the 'yes' option in question 3, was the
lowest of all the groups, but many also classed themselves as indifferent rather
than give a negative answer.
Half the group were unsure of
what they thought of the University web pages and a mere 9% claimed to access
Faculty web pages remotely. Their responses to questions 6 and 7 were very much
in accord with the overall average; question 8 revealing that even more than
average numbers preferred printed formats.
Finally, the nurses stood out
from the other groups surveyed, in their low use of e-mail. Only 5% said they
used it frequently, with a large 77% never using it at all. Of those that did
use e-mail, it was largely for personal use, only 1 out of 22 nurses used it to
e-mail their tutors.
MSc Health studies
The MSc studies group
displayed fairly high levels of confidence in the first 5 questions. However
they were less enthusiastic about the possibility of more interactive learning
material online and multiple-choice questions. They were also slightly higher
users of e-mail and used it to contact tutors as well as for personal use.
International and Health Development Studies yr1
The IDH yr1 students mostly felt
they were computer literate and could find things without too much difficulty.
However, out of all the groups, they gave the highest 'no' response to question
3, (27% compared to the average of 13%). Despite this fact, they also gave the
highest 'good/informative' response to question 4 and were most likely of all
the groups to access web pages remotely, (73% compared to 39% average).
They were mostly positive in
response to more online material and seemed more comfortable with a web-based
format, as the vast majority felt they were not sure if they preferred print to
web. Out of this group, 64% used e-mail frequently, which was much higher than
the average response, although 91% of this was for personal use only.
Occupational Therapy yr3/Health Sciences
These two groups were very small
in number, so were amalgamated to our third group. They had the highest number
of confident users and gave very positive responses to the first 5 questions.
They also responded highly to questions 6 and 7. They were the second largest
users of e-mail, and 25% used it for both purposes.
International and Health Development Studies yr2
This group reported the
highest number of unfamiliar users, (39%), compared to the average, (28%) but
had levels of confidence in line with the average, (question 2). They also had
the highest numbers of students who said they enjoyed using computers.
Like the majority of students
surveyed, this group were keen to see more interactive web-based material and
preferred printed formats. Although the majority used e-mail, it was
'sometimes', rather than 'frequently'. All those that did use e-mail, used it
for both purposes.
Some of the sample groups were
smaller than originally hoped and time constraints prevented the sampling of a
greater cross section of students across courses. This may have had the effect
of creating a biased set of results. Despite this, a general flavour of student
attitudes to IT services were revealed.
Most users classed themselves as
computer literate, (a subjective question in itself), though more users were
'unfamiliar' than 'confident'. More users also found it 'difficult' to access
facilities than those who found it 'easy' although the majority were reasonably
comfortable with accessing resources. Despite these rather negative findings,
the majority answered yes to the question about enjoying using computers and
thought that university facilities were 'good/informative'.
The level of users appear to be
logging in remotely was shown to be less than half, although how many have
access to other computers is not known. The vast majority of the students wanted
to see more interactive learning material online and interactive multiple choice
questionnaires. The majority also preferred printed formats, a mere 6% liking
Finally, the use of e-mail seemed
to vary greatly across student groups. Almost 1/3rd fell into each given
category. Of those that did use e-mail, the majority was for personal use,
although some did use it to contact their tutors.
A sample group of 67 students
at Coach Lane Campus is possibly just enough to give an indication of student
attitudes to the available IT services. Many of the results were positive and
there did seem to be a general level of satisfaction amongst most students.
However, there were pockets of students who were not content with IT services
and thought that many UNN web pages were "not very helpful". Many
students also felt unable to comment positively or negatively about then current
IT facilities, for whatever reason.
At the time of this study it
was indicative that many facilities could be improved. The University of
Northumbria has since redesigned and improved its entire web site. The aim of
questionnaire was to provide a base level from which to compare future
The questionnaire was
designed to be short to maximize student response, but it would have been useful
to extend many of the questions further. For example, it would have been
interesting to find out why third year Nursing Diploma students had such a low
uptake of e-mail, or why Faculty web pages were liked or disliked by particular
Do you personally make use of IT to prepare teaching materials such as
handouts and slide presentations? - Yes/No
2. Have you ever written
your own World Wide Web (WWW) pages for any reason?
3. Do you currently make
use of email to communicate with students? - As individuals/As student groups/No
4. Do you make use of
interactive teaching materials developed by yourself or others? - Yes/No
5. Have you identified
any interactive teaching materials that you would like to make use of, but are
unable to either because of prohibitive cost or incompatibilities? - Yes/No
Would you like to make the following available to students to download?
Other (please specify)
7. Do you think that you
would change the content of handouts, OHPs etc if they became available for
students to access over the network? - Yes/No
8. Are you content with
the amount of Communication & Information Technology (C&IT) you make use
of in your teaching? - Yes/No
9. Would you use online
resources to replace, or in addition to printed materials? - Replace printed
material/Compliment printed material
use of C&IT in the curriculum will save time for:
The large majority of staff
claimed to make use of IT to prepare teaching materials (95%), but a much fewer
number had written their own WWW pages (13%). Three quarters of staff used email
to contact individual students, whereas only 9% used group emails. One quarter
of staff however, claimed not to use email at all.
Thirty percent of the staff
said they used interactive teaching materials. In the context of the
questionnaire it was assumed that this would be taken to mean IT materials,
however it may have been unclear. The question did prompt several responses
about how many forms of teaching can be considered interactive. When asked about
whether IT materials had been identified but had unable to be used for
prohibitive cost or incompatibilities, only 25% said that this had been the
Members of staff were asked what
materials they would like to make available to students via C & IT. 74%
opted for handbooks, this being the most popular choice; presentations/OHP's
were next best choice with a 59% response. Both images/slides and videos were
fairly popular and were rated the same, (18%). A small percentage of staff (8%)
said they would prefer not to make any of the above available and 1% were
An open-ended question was
provided to find out what other materials staff would like to make available.
This led to the following list:
* Sound clips
* Discussion groups
* Online questions
* Course handbooks
* Other course info
* Distance learning units
* Interactive anatomy packages
* Application forms
* Unit booklets
It was then asked if it would be
thought necessary to change the contents of handouts, etc, if they were to be
made available via C & IT. 50% of staff felt that it would be necessary, as
opposed to 36% who did not and 8% who were not sure either way.
Many comments were also
provided in this section; they mostly qualified yes answers in terms of it being
an opportunity to add further details to materials, to improve or update them.
Some specified it would entirely on the nature of the material. Other comments
given in this section have been amalgamated to the further additional comments
section discussed in the final conclusions.
When members of staff were
asked if they were content with the amount of C & IT they were using in
their teaching, 29%were satisfied, 67% were not and 4% were unsure. 11% of staff
said they would use online resources to replace printed materials, while the
majority, 71% intended them to compliment existing documents. 15% said they
would do a combination of the above and 2% did not know.
The last question concerning
whether greater use of C & IT in the curriculum would save time, has been
combined with the final comments section. It was in this area various concerns
of staff were particularly revealed.
Some staff felt that it would
save time for staff and or students, but many felt that this was not necessarily
the most important issue. No one thought that administration would be saved any
A variety of comments were raised
Creates different time pressures.
Requires a lot of time to input material, which would then have to be
Takes time initially, then saves time.
It will increase staff development time, but will improve the student
experience, especially for part-time students.
That should be the foremost concern.
They take longer to prepare in the first place, but save time and
storage space subsequently.
Using online resources may save time, but my experience so far at UNN
shows that having to get approval for web pages causes unacceptable delays and
deters me from using them in the future.
It hasn't saved any time yet. In fact itís more time consuming for
students & lecturers having to learn typing skills, etc as you go along.
Developing some packages would take time initially but once completed
would assist all.
Work will always fill the time available; student learning opportunities
will be enhanced with greater use of C & I T.
It obviously takes much time to prepare C & IT material, but
traditional teaching etc. goes on as usual. I feel teachers want to move forward
but the pace is slow.
Training! Technical support! Hardware!
Use of C & IT is limited due to very poor hardware available to them
in HSWE, especially those in Pre. Reg Nursing.
Use of IT is increasing daily and used for teaching purposes as often as
availability of equipment will allow.
This university is incredibly tardy at making workable systems available
to staff and students and when it does the bureaucracy and control makes
More time will be needed for students who do not have the benefits of
additional computer memory.
It would be a useful way (if handouts were on the web), of saving paper
and photocopying costs.
There's a need for adequate resource production of materials & to
provide satisfactory mechanisms for students to access materials.
The last question is unfortunate as it may suggest that to staff that
the use of C & IT will mean less work and reduction in staff. This is not
conducive to securing the commitment of staff to this type of development.
Staff need more access to support and information on how to use new
Accessibility to C & IT is also a must for staff and students. C
& IT needs to freely available at all times for Teaching and Learning - an
More staff training is needed to develop IT skills and to increase the
repertoire of teaching aides/materials.
Because of my limited experience/skill everything seems to take an age
to complete and I don't think I get the best out of the technology.
Staff will need to invest a lot of time in getting materials prepared
and upgrading their skills.
I would like to be more confident about accessing and using the World
Wide Web. At the moment I lack time, confidence, and technical skills.
Some students entering courses with limited IT experience may be
intimidated, but not those with experience.
Greater use of C & IT could disadvantage students who are
poorer/less familiar with IT and who don't have computers, or have a computer
and are just learning to use it.
Often older students find computers intimidating.
The cost of downloading will be passed onto the student; this is when
the costs of H.E. are already high.
Some mature students (especially part-time) find its use intimidating,
its difficult to strike the balance in that it would help students if they could
overcome their fear & try learning new skills.
It may not save time if students have to book/queue for access to a PC.
Students will become self-reliant and develop key skills for life and
The only worry (with students) is that of 'plagiarism', which I
understand is difficult to police.
There are 2 distinct camps, those who are "au fait" and those
who are not.
Greater use of IT material for students to download would a) increase
their workload and time spent waiting about b) reduce the amount of relevant
material provided for student handouts - who would type/scan this in?
My own concern is the loss of interaction/rapport between student &
teacher as a context for facilitating learning.
Staff are well aware of the
increasing pressures for the adoption of C & IT in the context of teaching
and learning. They are also aware of the many constraints that apply to this
area. The large majority are keen to include more C & IT in their teaching,
but have found that for various reasons, they have found difficulties in doing
so. There are also various implications for students and issues that need to be
addressed across a university. Despite the problems, most staff seem committed
to moving into a new era of curriculum delivery and can see the long term
benefits for staff and students alike.
Dr. Megan Quentin-Baxter, Dr. Tony McDonald, and Mr. John Moss
Faculty of Medicine Computing Centre, University of Newcastle.
Dr. Brian Bell
Faculty of Health, Social Work & Education, University of