The Internet as a Research and/or Communication Tool to Support Classroom-Based Instruction: Usage, Value, and Utility for Post-Secondary Students
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Recent research indicates that the Internet (or Net) is currently being used at many post-secondary institutions in support of traditional, classroom-based instruction. From 1994 to 2002, the percentage of post-secondary classes using the Web as a research tool and E-mail as a method of communication has increased almost ten fold. An extensive literature on the evaluation of the Internet as an educational technology has developed in recent years; however, there are some gaps that need to be filled to provide a more complete understanding of the Internet and its use by post-secondary students. First, most of the studies focus primarily on student usage of the Net, and less so on the value (or the advantages and disadvantages) and the utility (or usefulness) associated with that usage. Second, many of these studies make a distinction between the research and communication functions of the Internet. While I argue that this is an appropriate distinction, many examine one function or the other only – and not both simultaneously. The central research problem that this study addresses is helping to fill those two gaps in the evaluation literature by examining in detail student usage, value and utility of the Net as a research and/or communication tool for post-secondary students in support of classroom-based instruction. Drawing upon work from the fields of media studies, learning theory, and theories of communication, I establish a "Net as Tool" framework and adopt a uses and gratifications approach to examine student use of the Net. The three main inter-related concepts of usage, value and utility are used as organizing themes for the study, and I designed and developed a survey instrument to gather original quantitative data from post-secondary students in both Canada and Australia to fully examine those concepts. Two focus group sessions were designed to supplement this quantitative data with qualitative findings (and to generate more in-depth insights into student usage, value and utility of the Net as a research and/or communication tool). The results presented in this study have both theoretical and practical importance. In regards to the theoretical side, I have identified the underlying dimensions of usage, value, and utility, and highlighted what makes the Net valuable and useful as a research and/or communication tool. Additionally, I have identified the factors which are related to usage, value, and utility, and explored the inter-related nature of those three concepts. I concluded my study with an outline of the importance of the skill of digital literacy so that students can cope effectively with the online environment. These findings are significant because they help to fill some specific gaps in the evaluation knowledge of the Net in post-secondary education. In addition, I have developed a practical strategy which suggests how the Net could be used most effectively by students as a research and/or communication tool in support of classroom based instruction. The areas addressed by the strategy include access, infrastructure, technical support, training, integration into the curriculum, and appropriate use of the tool. The overall strategy is important because it contributes to our understanding of the Net as an educational tool, and it outlines ways to address the issue of the digital divide within post-secondary education. It is hoped the strategy will be useful to training staff, post-secondary administrators, instructors, and students.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Film, Media and Cultural Studies
Item Access Status
World Wide Web