Stacy Yeager, Ph.D.
Education: Bachelor of Science in management (information systems) (August 1998)
Master of Science in management information systems from Friends University
Doctor of Philosophy in management in organizational leadership from the University of Phoenix
McNair Project: Impact of Race and Gender on an Individual's Experience with and Use of Computers at Kansas State University (1997)
Mentor: Jacqueline Spears, Ph.D.
Members of minority groups come to college with varying levels of computer experience, but generally speaking, their experience is not as extensive as that brought by non-minority students, according to Schwalm (1995). In 1992, comparisons between the performance of male and female students showed that males demonstrated slightly higher computer competence than females. Because computers and the Internet are so prominent in our society, it is important to know if everyone is getting their "fair" share of computer knowledge. Before educational institutions can develop programs to address the inequalities that may exist, they must first know the competence levels of the students.
This research explores college students' experience with and use of computers, and the role that race and gender may play in predicting any differences. A survey instrument was developed to investigate the age at which college students were exposed to computers, the availability of computers in the home or at school, current use of computers, familiarity with the Internet and other forms of telecommunications, as well as general attitudes toward computers. Demographic variables collected on the respondents included hometown, major and minor fields, age, race, and gender. The survey was distributed randomly to individuals at common gathering places on campus. The final sample included 130 responses, and was diverse enough to allow analysis based on race (50% African- / 42% Anglo-American), gender (44% male / 55% female), and age, which averaged between 18-22.
Descriptive statistics revealed that most college students had been exposed to computers no later than middle school. At K-State, respondents reported that they used the computer and Internet for homework assignments and research. Those who did not have a computer at home (35%) said it was because of financial reasons. Nearly 78% of college students report that they have access to a computer. Eighty percent of the respondents' use of computers range from four to twenty hours per week. Thirty percent of the respondents use the computer five to nine hours per week. On a scale of one (no knowledge) to ten (knowledgeable), seventy percent rated themselves between five and eight, suggesting a strong relationship between computer time and knowledge.
The differences due to age, race, and gender were examined using multi-variate analysis. Using an alpha level of 0.05, significant differences were found on items related to reasons for not having a computer, the extent to which an individual's knowledge of computers has been enhanced at Kansas State University, the purpose for which they use computers, and the time spent using computers. The findings of the study appear to contradict the view that women and people of color are lacking in computer knowledge. These groups are still behind in some areas but they are catching up to their counterparts. There is more need for education in computers in the lower levels of our educational structure, but by the time they get to college it begins to even out. Clearly the issue of gender differences in computer competence, however, does exist. This study found that the applicants who had the most computer knowledge were African-American women and white men. Enhancing students' environments with technology, especially in ways that recognize and respect ethnic differences, may have immediate and long-range effects on students' persistence, academic success and career satisfaction.