S. Poelmans1, F. Truyen2, C. Stockman2

1Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel & K.U.Leuven (BELGIUM)
2Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (BELGIUM)
Within a knowledge-oriented society, ICT and information-related competences have become an essential part of a higher education curriculum. As basic ICT skills are often supposed to be taught in secondary education, the risk exists that such proficiencies are taken for granted in higher education, and thus neglected.

In this article, we present the findings of an investigation of ICT skills of students of the university of Leuven (K.U.Leuven) association in Belgium. The study extends an earlier educational project of the association, aiming to enrich students’ ICT competences and ICT behavior. The research is also endorsed by experienced ICT lecturers who observed that, despite the digital age we live in, students’ ICT proficiencies did not always meet the required or expected level, certainly not in the arts and humanities curriculum.

Within the related literature, two tendencies can be distinguished. First, research dealing with ICT competences and so called ‘ICT literacy’ for a great deal seems to focus on what can be called ‘Office-oriented’ skills (the use of text processors, spreadsheets, presentation software, and sometimes databases). Secondly, there is a body of knowledge related to self-reported capabilities that may be different from actual proficiencies.

The research that we present incorporates both perceived and more objective ICT skills, with a focus on operational skills that are not product-dependent and comprise multiple dimensions. We have measured perceived 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 the measure of Compeau and Higgins (1995). Finally, to measure ICT skills in an objective way, we developed a test with 35 multiple choice questions that relate to the six dimensions above. The survey also takes into account the personal profile of students, including variables such as study level, gender and computer usage. Students could also identify themselves by choosing between several cultural profiles such as ‘gamer’, ‘chatter’, ‘blogger’, etc.

Using a sample of 195 university students, and applying appropriate statistical methods, the study reveals rather low scores on the multiple choice test, but considerably significant relationships between subjective and objective measures, confirming the validity of the scales we developed. Test items with low scores predominantly relate to legal, as well as technical and security issues. Overall, the findings show almost no gender effects, but strong differences between study levels (bachelor-master).