Influence of locus of control and computer skills on the use of Internet resources by undergraduate students in Nigerian universities.

Author:Adeagbo, O.O.


University students have been at the forefront of social change since the end of World War II. They were among the first in the United States to use the Internet for communication, recreation, and file sharing, and the first to have regular broadband Internet access (The Chronicle of Higher Education, Almanac Issue 2001-2). Internet use first became widespread on university campuses in the 1990s, and in many ways the Internet is a direct outcome of university-based research. Yahoo, Napster, and many other Internet tools were created by university students, while the vast majority of university students are simply Internet users, as a group they can be considered pioneers.

A survey carried out in USA (Rainie and Packel 2001) shows that the demographic profile of today's university students is not much changed over the past decade. One characteristic that sets them apart from past generations of university students is their degree of familiarity with the Internet. Most of the 18-year-old university first year students of today were born years after the personal computer was introduced to the public, and they are less aware of a "pre-Internet" world as they are of one in which the Internet also called the "Net" is central to their communication. A count put the number of Internet users in United States at over 104 million and everyday, 50 million Americans go online (Rainie and Packel 2001). Statistics show that Africa as a continent has recorded an Internet user growth of 171.4% between year 2000 - 2004, but accounts for only 1.5% of the world Internet usage. Asia is at the foremost with 32.0%, while North America and Europe has 28.1% and 27.9% respectively of the Internet users in the world (Fatoki, 2004).

The Internet, sometimes called simply "the Net," is a worldwide system of computer networks--a network of networks in which users at any one computer can, if they have permission, get information from any other computer (and sometimes talk directly to users at other computers). It was conceived by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the U.S. government in 1969 and was first known as the ARPANET. The original aim was to create a network that would allow users of a research computer at one university to be able to "talk to" research computers at other universities (The Internet Society, 2002).

The Internet can now be accessed virtually anywhere by numerous means. Mobile phones, data cards, handheld game consoles and cellular routers allow users to connect to the Internet from anywhere there is a cellular network supporting that device's technology. Other Internet resources include email, www (World Wide Web), file sharing, streaming media, collaboration, remote access, voice telephony, webcams and so on. Studies done on the use of Internet resources among Nigerian students show that the use of computer and the Internet to aid their academic activities is gradually becoming acceptable but the students have not fully used these facilities (Ajuwon, 2003).

Literature has shown that the use of Internet by students can be influenced by certain variables like demographic characteristics such as age, sex, marital status, educational qualification, computer skills, accessibility to computer and the Internet. In addition, Katz (1998) indicated that student attitudes such as self-image, social-image, self-confidence, locus of control, satisfaction, and motivation are those, which lay the foundation and contribute towards the willingness of students to use information and communication technology in learning.

Basic personal computer skills are prerequisite to using the Internet, though in practice these skills are often acquired together, as the popularity of the Internet motivates many adults to use computers for the first time. Motor skills (learning to use a keyboard, learning to manipulate a mouse) and perceptual skills (learning to associate images and events on the computer screen with motor actions) form the most elementary substrate.

Locus of control is a person's perceived control over his or her own behaviour (Rotter 1966). It is the orientation that a person holds as to where control over life events is relative to the self--internal or external meaning, self-control, or other-controlled. It is also defined as a psycho logic concept that defines people as having either an internal or an external locus of control, depending on whether they are more self-reliant and independent or more communally focused and dependent on others. The classification internal locus indicates that the person feels in control of events; external locus indicates that others are perceived to have that control.

Studies carried out by researchers on the relationship between locus of control and the use of Internet among students are inconclusive and are basically in U.S and other western countries. In Nigeria however, studies conducted on the use of Internet by students in Nigerian universities and factors that affect its use are scanty. It is against this background therefore that this research study is carried out.

Objectives of the Study

The objectives of this study are:

  1. To determine the level of use of Internet resources by university students.

  2. To determine the type of locus of control that is prevalent among students

  3. To ascertain the level of computer skills possessed by the students

  4. To determine the influence of locus of control on students use of the Internet resources.

  5. To assess the influence of computer skills possessed by students on the use of Internet resources.

Research Questions

This study will be used to answer the following questions:

  1. What Internet resources do the undergraduate students make use of?

  2. How often do they use these Internet resources?

  3. Which search engine do undergraduate students in Nigeria Universities use most?

  4. Do they use the computer?

  5. How long have they been using the computer?

  6. How often do they use it?

  7. How did the undergraduate students get their computer training?

  8. What level of competence of computer skills do the undergraduate students possess?

  9. What type of locus of control is prevalent among undergraduate students in Nigerian universities?

  10. What are the Internet related tasks that Nigerian students mostly use the Internet resources for?

  11. Does possession of computer skill have any significant relationship with the use of Internet resources by undergraduate students in Nigerian universities?

  12. Is there any significant difference between undergraduate students who have an internal locus of control and those who have an external locus of control on the use of the Internet resources?

    Literature Review

    Advances in telecommunication technology in the last two decades have led to the development of computer networks that allow access to vast amount of information and services (Gershaw, 1989). Of the many computer networks that have been developed, the most prominent and widespread is the Internet, a global network of networks that enables computers of all kinds to directly and transparently communicate throughout the world. This 'global network of networks' has been described as the 'Information Super-highway' or 'Infobahn' because it constitutes a shared global resource of knowledge, and means of collaboration and co-operation in diverse communities. It is an open and unregulated community of people who communicate freely across an international electronic computer network (Coiera, 1995). It is simply the linking together of individual computers in a network (Mckenzie, 1997).

    The Internet was originally conceived by the United States of America's military in the sixties, as a means of ensuring a workable communication system in the event of a strike by enemy missiles or forces (December, 1994). It has grown over the years to include academic and government computers as well as anyone who owns a computer, a modem and an account with an Internet Service Provider. Although there is no precise statistics, it is estimated that there are at least 100,000 networks, attached to more than 5 million computers located in over 100 countries, connected to the Internet. While access to the Internet was originally restricted to government departments, and organizations such as universities, in the 1990s it became available to those with access to a computer network, in both the developed and developing countries (Millman, 1995).

    Statistics show that Africa as a continent has recorded an Internet user growth of 171.4% between year 2000 - 2004, but accounts for only 1.5% (and the lowest) of the world Internet usage. It has been reported that Nigeria, a country in Africa continent, with an estimated population of 146,255,306 has 10,000,000 Internet users (6.8% of the population per ITU) as against the 200,000 in December 2000, representing a user growth of 275% (Africa Internet Usage and Population Statistics, 2008).

    Use of Internet Resources by Undergraduates

    Research by the Pew Internet & American Life Project (Rainie, and Packel 2001) has shown that students seem generally positive about the Internet and its impact on their educational experience. The study revealed that majority of university students has a positive attitude toward the Internet and its communication tools. They are comfortable with Internet communication, and even report finding enjoyment while using it for academic and personal reasons. Their Internet habits are split between academic and social uses, and they find it functional for both purposes. An overwhelming number of students feel that Internet communication has positively enhanced their college academic experience.

    The Internet is used in many cases to supplement students' academic activities and provide some alternatives for professors and students looking to bring new life to familiar educational experiences. For example, two-thirds (68%) of students reported that they have subscribed to one or more academic-oriented mailing...

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