CORVALLIS, Ore. - Embracing technology that barely existed a few years ago, a new survey shows that the average college student has become surprisingly computer literate and is now integrating these systems into daily work, study, classes and chats.
And they had better. In college, computers are no longer an option.
Most college professors now require use of computers - at least word processing and graphics, sometimes more sophisticated statistical analysis and database management - in one or more of the courses they teach.
In a comprehensive survey of more than 4,000 students and faculty at Oregon State University, a picture emerges of students who usually have their own computers and access "electronic libraries" to do their homework.
They routinely tap into the Internet - each OSU student is given an Internet account upon registration, and every residence hall is wired for access - but even with this availability, they're eager to learn more about Internet resources.
And they absolutely love to chat with friends or family on e-mail.
"Some of the information in the survey confirmed what we already knew, that computers have become an integral part of the life of a college student," said Joy Hughes, associate provost for information services at OSU.
"But the findings will help us a lot to target our resources," Hughes said. "For example, the number one training request out of 41 choices is for more Internet training, which a majority of the students now use."
Desk and laptop computers are already pervasive on campus and 79 percent of students also use university computer labs.
"Perhaps because of this heavy usage, the students rated 'more machines in the labs' as their number one priority for technology investment," Hughes said. "Their other top choices were lab modernization, more student training and an increased level of staff support in the labs."
Other findings of the student portion of the survey included:
By far the most popular operating platform is Microsoft Windows, the survey showed, and the computer labs at Kerr Library are the most heavily used. About two-thirds of the students would be willing to take a quarter-long course or workshop to improve their computer skills.
But the form of teaching really preferred by three fourths of them? What else...computer assisted instruction.
A separate survey of OSU faculty also found that computer use - and requirements - have taken firm root at the university and only show signs of increasing.
Sixty-nine percent of OSU educators said they required at least some form of computer use in one or more of their classes. The most commonly mandated skills, in order, were: word processing, 83 percent; graphics, 68 percent; electronic mail, 62 percent; access electronic library resources, 58 percent; database management, 53 percent; and Internet searches, 52 percent.
Also commonly required for many classes were computerized statistical analysis, numerical calculations and spreadsheets, computer programming, and Worldwide Web assignments or distribution of course materials.
The single highest computer-related priority of OSU faculty was for every student to have command of basic software productivity tools.
But when it came to their own training, the faculty were a cloistered lot - their most preferred mode of learning was personal fiddling with the computer or maybe a workshop in their own office building.
Click photos to see a full-size version. Right click and save image to download.