S. Poelmans1, F. Truyen2, C. Stockman2

1Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel, Association K.U.Leuven (BELGIUM)
2Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (BELGIUM)
In today's society, digital literacy acquires increasing importance for any professional profile. Also within the educational community, ICT skills have become crucial to the curriculum. In this paper, we present the first result of an ongoing investigation into the ICT skills of students in higher education in the Flemish region of Belgium. The research is a continuation of an earlier education innovation project within the association of the Catholic University of Leuven (K.U.Leuven, Belgium), aiming at understanding and improving students’ ICT knowledge, attitudes and usage patterns. There was a need for such research because a number of experienced ICT lecturers within the association felt that, despite the digital age we live in, students’ ICT competencies did not always meet the required or expected level, certainly in the arts and humanities curriculum.
In the research we focus on several students’ perceived ICT skills, general computer use patterns, and computer efficacy. Contributing to the literature that seems to focus a great deal on ‘Office-oriented’ skills (the use of text processors, spreadsheets, presentation software, etc.), we concentrate on operational skills that are less product-dependent, often taken for granted and overestimated, but nevertheless essential.
In particular, we have subdivided and measured ICT skills in six dimensions: file management, technical issues, legal issues, security, internet use, and risk awareness of one’s online traceability. Perceived computer self-efficacy has been measured using an adaptation of the well-established measure of Compeau and Higgins (1995).
The survey also gauges the personal profile of students, including variables such as study level, gender, age, study subject and computer use (intra-curriculum and extra-curriculum). Additionally, respondents could choose between several social profiles fitting their typical behavior, such as ‘gamer’, ‘tweaker’, ‘chatter’, ‘blogger’, etc.
At the moment of this writing, a sample of 195 bachelor and master students completed the questionnaire; the great majority from diverse human sciences. All measured latent variables have been subject to a reliability analysis.
The data reveals a detailed insight into computer use patterns and the self-reported proficiency of different cohorts of students. The paper gives an account of several tendencies within the multi-dimensional perceived ICT skills’ measures, and computer use. Using appropriate statistical methods, we also test for the existence of: gender effects, bachelor-master effects, and effects of the study subject. In the same vein, the role of computer use in students’ perceptions of their ICT skills and efficacy is analyzed.
The multi-dimensional approach and the inclusion of several personal students’ characteristics enable us to provide detailed guidelines and remedies for higher education. The survey will be administered to other cohorts in the near future and will be improved and re-used over the next academic years.