1 Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel (BELGIUM)
2 Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (BELGIUM)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Pages: 4910-4921
ISBN: 978-84-613-2953-3
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2009
Location: Madrid, Spain
Based on the literature and on numerous interviews with ICT lecturers in higher education, we assert that (under)graduate students’ essential computing knowledge - including issues such as information security, information retrieval, information storage, legal issues, and risks of internet usage - is often overestimated, not in the least by students themselves. In order to improve ICT- related education and create more awareness towards computing possibilities and risks, a project was started at the Association of the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium) to develop an information compendium, called the 'Information Companion' (
This Information Companion contains instructions, guidelines, blogs and a self-test regarding a number of essential personal computer skills and responsible information attitudes that are required in college and professional life but that are often taken for granted and not taught explicitly anymore.
In this paper, we examine the level of perceived computer literacy and the disparities in the perceptions of different cohorts of (under)graduate students of the Association K.U.Leuven. In June 2008, an online survey was administered and completed by no less than 7 896 students.
Using 15 items (with a 6-point Likert Scale), perceived computer literacy was measured as a multi-dimensional second-order factor, consisting of 5 primary factors (“security”, “information retrieval”, “legal issues”, “internet risk awareness”, and “data storage”). Also, a number of personal characteristics were measured (including gender, type of education, branch of study and subject).
Using two-way ANOVA, we found a significant gender and branch effect. In accordance with the literature, female students give themselves a significant lower global computer literacy score than male students. Dividing the sample in four main branches of study (exact sciences, medical sciences, humanities and arts), it is clear that students of the exact sciences have a significantly higher score than students of the other branches. A similar pattern can be found in the primary factors. Whereas the branch effect is clearly confirmed in each primary factor, significant gender differences exist in three factors (there are no gender differences concerning “legal issues“ and “information retrieval”). Except for "legal issues", interaction effects between gender and branch were non-significant.
Finally, we clustered students into three types of education: professional bachelor (in a college), academic bachelor (university level) and master. The second-order computer literacy factor only showed a significant difference between master and academic bachelor students (with significant higher scores for master students).
Although the survey contains questions on basic skills and issues, the results suggest that many students would benefit from a more basic introduction to computer possibilities and risks. Particularly knowledge related to “Legal issues” and “Data Storage” should be increased. However, the lower female scores should be interpreted cautiously, since they might reflect several explanations given in the literature.
computer literacy - computer knowledge higher computer education survey.