Digital Literacy Skills of Undergraduate Students in Nigeria Universities.

Author:Adeoye, Azeez Adebamgbola


University remains the chief agents of progress in the society and progressive nations are those with flourishing universities. University helps in the development of nations by providing the high as well as the middle level manpower needed for the social, economic and political advancement. This is done through the programme of teaching, learning, research and community services (Okiy, 2003). This places university education at the apex in the ranking of educational system, as it is designed to accommodate knowledge acquisition and production (Anunobi and Nwogwugwu, 2013). According to Merriam Webster Online Dictionary, Universities are institutions of higher learning that provide facilities for teaching and research and are authorized to grant academic degrees such as bachelor, master and doctorate.

Undergraduates are students in the tertiary institutions pursuing their first degree programme in various disciplines (Osunade, Philips and Ojo 2007). Due to their heavy workload, the undergraduates usually search for information in various sources to support their learning activities. Depending on the mode of study, an average undergraduate is expected to spend a minimum of three years and a maximum of six years in the university (Osunade, Philips and Ojo 2007). Academic performance of an undergraduate in this century depends on his/her digital literacy skills to identify the credible information on the internet. Information and Communication Technology has pervaded all sectors of human endeavours.

According to Thomas (2004), the Pew Research Center in 2001 reported that ninety-four percent (94%) of teenagers with access to Internet rely on online information for research tasks and seventy-one percent (71%) of them used the Internet as the major source for their most recent school projects. Fifty-eight percent (58%) of the students have used websites set up by the school or a class, thirty-four percent (34%) has downloaded a study guide while 17% have created a web page for a school project.

The preference of the electronic resources by undergraduates may be attributed to what Salaam, 2008 observes about its flexibility in searching than their paper-based counterpart, and that they can be accessed remotely at anytime. The emergence of electronic resources has removed the barrier to valuable information resources which until now were difficult to access (Mandinaeh, 2004). This attitude has affected the use of the library's collection and students' perception of library. Undergraduates reacquire skills and knowledge which can be dependent on many factors, such as level of digital literacy skills, academic status and ranks, ages, access (hardware and location) to electronic database resources and training.

Factors motivating use of electronic recourses can be level of importance allocated to e-resources, how useful they have found them, and for which purposes they use e-resources (Edewor, 2008). Undergraduates' purpose of using Electronic Database Resources (EDR)/ICT could be for assignment, research report, term paper, seminar, preparing for examination, preparing lecture notes, or/and for self development (Adetinmirin, 2011).

A study conducted in Australia by Deng, (2010) found that there were various purposes for a user to use e-resources including: gathering information on a specific topic, gaining general information, obtaining answers to specific questions, completing assignments, reviewing literature, writing essays and helping decision making. It also found that respondents use e-resources for each of the above purposes. Such an observation reflects the fact that currently users are dependent on the availability of e-resources for meeting many of their academic needs (Dolo Nadlwana, 2013). Therefore, Computers and related electronic database resources have come to play a central role in education (Lang, 2008).

For undergraduates to enjoy the benefit provided by electronic database resources, undergraduates need a composite skill which is referred to as digital literacy skills. This skill will help them to acquire information literacy skill, media literacy skill, and ICT literacy. All these skills will enable them to connecting to library database resources. Digital literacy skill is vital to enhance their confidence in use of electronic databases in the library.

Therefore, Digital literacy skill is necessary for retrieval of relevant and up- to-date information for student's work. Kari (2004) explained that skills required to use electronic database resources are higher than the one required for searching printed sources and that students need to master certain skills to exploit and use the growing range of e-resources (Margaret-Mary Ekenna and Mabawonku Iyabo, 2013). Undergraduates therefore need skills such as, informational literacy skills, ICT literacy and media literacy skills for speedy retrieval of the exact information needed from electronic resources.

Okello-Obura and Magara (2008) stated that computer skills of students should be improved for accessibility and utilisation of e-resources. According to Mutshewa (2008), skill is improved through practice and frequent use of information retrieval system such as electronic database resources. Mutshewa pointed out that there is a need for well-defined development programmes that could help people to be competent in the use of information retrieval system. Also, Oliver (1995) stated that users should have appropriate instructions and frequent activity with electronic information system.

In light of the rapid and continual development of digital technology, undergraduate students are required to use a growing variety of technical, cognitive, and sociological skills in order to perform tasks and solve problems in digital environments. These skills are referred to in the literature as "digital literacy" (Pool, 1997).

Like any fashionable term, "digital literacy" has enjoyed a broad range of uses in the literature, from reference to technical aspects (e.g., Bruce & Peyton, 1999; Davies, Szabo, & Montgomerie, 2002; Swan, Bangert-Drowns, Moore-Cox, & Dugan, 2002), to cognitive, psychological, or sociological meanings (e.g., Gilster, 1997; Papert, 1996; Tapscott, 1998).

ALA Digital Literacy Taskforce, (2011) opines that digital Literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills. It further states that a digital literate person possesses the variety of skills--technical and cognitive--required to find, understand, evaluate, create, and communicate digital information in a wide variety of formats; is able to use diverse technologies appropriately and effectively to retrieve information, interpret results, and judge the quality of that information.

The California ICT Digital Literacy Assessment and Curriculum Framework provides a more detailed definition of digital literacy as the ability to use digital technology and communications tools, and/or networks to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, create and communicate information in order to function in a knowledge society (California Emerging Technology Fund, 2008).

Jones-Kavalier and Flannigan (2008) state that digital literacy represents a person's ability to perform tasks effectively in a digital environment; digital means information represented in numeric form and primarily use by a computer, and literacy includes the ability to read and interpret media, to reproduce data and images through digital manipulation and to evaluate and apply new knowledge gained from digital environments.

Digital literacy is the ability to understand and use information in multiple formats from wide range of sources when it is presented via computers. A person's ability to perform tasks effectively in a digital environment, Literacy includes the ability to read and interpret media, to reproduce data and images through digital manipulation and to evaluate and apply new knowledge gained from digital environments.

Similarly, digital literacy as used by the European Reference Framework is the confident and critical use of information technology for work, leisure and communication, underpinned by basic skills in ICT: the use of computers to retrieve, assess, store, produce, present, and exchange information, and to communicate and participate in collaborative networks via the Internet (European Communities, 2007).

Aviram and Eshet-Alkalai (2006) describe digital literacy as a combination of technicalprocedural, cognitive and emotional-social skills. Sefton-Green, Nixon and Erstad (2009) explained that the concept is used to describe our engagements with digital technologies as they mediate many of our social interactions; they say, however, that the literacy associated with participation in digital practices and cultures are complex.

To be digitally literate is to have access to a broad range of practices and cultural resources that you are able to apply to digital tools. It is the ability to make and share meaning in different modes and formats; to create, collaborate and communicate effectively and to understand how and when digital technologies can best be used to support these processes. Digital literacy is the skills, knowledge and understanding that enable critical, creative, discerning and safe practices when engaging with digital technologies in all areas of life.

Some people associate digital literacy simply with the functional skills of being able to use a computer or particular software package effectively. But digital literacy is about much more than having access to or being able to use a computer. It is about collaborating, staying safe and communicating effectively. It is about cultural and social awareness and understanding and it is about being creative. Being digitally literate is about knowing when and why digital technologies are appropriate and helpful to the...

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