UniServe Science

Survey of computing experience and skill development needs of incoming first year students at The University of Sydney in 2000

Prepared by UniServe Science for the PVC Information Technology
June 2000

Executive Summary

To facilitate University planning for the provision of computer facilities and skill development for students at the University of Sydney, a survey was given to all first year students in 2000. It was distributed after the enrolment period and used enrolment data available at the time. This survey asked students for demographic information, for their opinions of their own computer skills and needs and for their reasons for enrolling at this university. The last such survey was carried out in 1995.

Of the total number of students targeted, some 25% (3,368) returned the survey, of whom 65% were female and 35% male. This matches the response ratio in 1995 (64.8% female and 34.5% male), and is consistent with most surveys sent to students, where nearly two-thirds of those responding are female.

The findings from this survey are presented in this report. They have been grouped firstly by College, and then by Faculty. Comparisons are made with the findings of the 1995 survey, but, because the College system was not in place in 1995, no comparisons can be made at this level.

At the same time, a survey was distributed to all academic staff who teach first year students. Of the total number sent out, 218 responses were received.

The most important findings coming out of a comparison of both student and staff surveys are the following.

  • Student access to computers, and their degree of computer usage, is, on average, in excess of what staff consider necessary. Some 70% of staff believe that students need access to computers at home: 87% of students actually have it. Similarly, only 63% of staff believe that students need to use their computers once a week or more and 61% of students say they use their computers more than 4 hours per week.
  • The only computer skills considered to be necessary by the great majority of staff (of order 70%) were word processing, Internet use and email. These same three skills were those which students reported they had most experience with. Between 80% and 90% of students said they were quite confident or very confident of their skills in those areas.
  • In the near future, a greater number of staff (of order 75%) believe these skills will become necessary. This number is still below that for student confidence levels.
  • The greatest discrepancy between student perceptions and staff expectations is in the importance of computers in general. Essentially all students (99%) believe that computers are fairly important or very important in their studies. Only 69% of staff consider skill in using computers in general to be necessary to successfully complete their courses.
  • The most important findings coming out of a comparison of the 1995 and the 2000 surveys is that students' previous experience with and access to computers has increased significantly.

  • In 1995, almost 60% reported they used computers less that 5 hours per week. In 2000, the equivalent number is 40%.
  • In 1995, some 33% reported they were unable to use a word processing package. In 2000, the equivalent number is 11%.
  • In 1995, only 66% had access to a computer at home. In 2000, the number is 87%.
  • Nevertheless, students still feel that they would like instruction in computer usage (presumably because 99% think that computer skills are important).

    In 1995, 60% thought that computing training courses would be a good idea. In 2000, 80% said they might or would be interested in such courses.

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