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ASSESSMENT OF COMPUTER LITERACY AMONG ACADEMIC STAFF OF NASARAWA STATE UNIVERSITY
Background to the Study
The Nigerian University has for long been recognised as an ivory tower of education. The university is seen as the factory for producing high level man-power in every conceivable field of human endeavour. It is populated by three major sectors: the bureaucrats (administrators) the academics (Lecturers, Tutors/Instructors) and the students (Odoweye 1995). These three sectors are generally referred to as the University community, with each sector performing a defined role.
An academic staff according to Ojo (2008) is a person who works as a researcher and who teaches at a university, college, or similar institution in post secondary (tertiary) education and whose duties include: teaching, learning, research and community services. In the University, the roles of academics are geared towards achieving the University’s goals as stated in the National Policy on Education (2004) which include: Teaching, Research, Dissemination of existing and new Information, Pursuit of services to the community and being a store house of knowledge. The academic staff of every university is expected to impact knowledge to its students, assist them in writing research reports, offer public services to its community by public lectures, extra-mural lessons, etc. and above all, to publish original research of which he is evaluated for productivity/promotion. An Academic staff is a person of different responsibilities. To accomplish these responsibilities efficiently therefore, require a variety of computer skills which are useful and in some cases required as an essential part of teaching and learning
The computer according to Otim (2000) is any device capable of automatically accepting data, applying a sequence of process to the data and supplying the result of this process. This makes the computer an indispensable tool for efficiency, improvement and precision for task execution. It serves as a backbone for societal development in all ramifications. Computers have the freedom from induced errors, that is, they do not introduce errors on their own. According to Mckeown (1995), when a computer is programmed correctly and inputs are entered properly, the accuracy is virtually guaranteed. In terms of accuracy, a computer does exactly what it is instructed to do, so the same operations can be repeated many times without errors. In the same way, the speed of computer operations is considerably reasonable when compared with manual operations.
The computer is the latest product of technology to make its way into the classroom. Ogugua (2004) observes that, the computer and its related facilities impact on educational sector through the use of such facilities as: Computer Aided Teaching (CAT), Audio-Visual learning software and compact disc, Television programmes, Automation, Multimedia and Hypermedia, Computerized Grade Books, Data Base Management System (DBMS), Simulation among others. In his contribution, Abimbade (1997) noted that, computer help students to learn at their own pace; it produces significant time saving over conventional classroom instruction; it gives appropriate feedback; it promotes individualized instruction through personalized responses to learner’s action to yield a high rate of reinforcement; it provides a more positive affective climate especially for slower learners; it provides appropriate record-keeping and thereby monitors students’ progress; it puts more information in the hands of teachers; the novelty of working with a computer raises students motivation; it provides reliable instruction from leaners to learners regardless of the teacher/ learner at any time of the day and location; it directs instruction to learners and finally it provides instruction at comparable expenses to other media. The benefits of computer literacy to academic work is endless. Nowadays, according to Ogonrewo and Odusina (2010), the slogan ‘publish or perish’ is popular and a reality among the academics. This idea of publish or perish has encouraged the academics to engage in serious research and search for scientific, correct and up-to-date information through the internet or visit the library that is capable of providing access to various data bases and online journals for their various uses. These no doubt have called for the acquisition of computer literacy skills by the academics if they most remain productive towards the atainment of the university goals.
At present, computer technology in schools is one of the most far reaching and fast growing developments in education. It has brought a lot of innovations and revolutions into teaching and learning. The 3R’s that is, Reading, Writing and Arithmetics which form the nucleus of the old system of education has witnessed series of literacy reforms. The benefits of computer skills in scholarly communication include its speedy and easy operation. It also enjoys the benefits of remote production, dissemination, preservation and usage of scholarly information. With the computer, one can enjoy round-the-clock access to data bases; provision of more up-to-date information; and reformatting and combination of data from different sources. The computer in its cyber space expression is seen as so pervasive that the only meaningful response is to be computer literate and to master it so as to derive maximum benefit from the multiplicity of advantages which it offers.
The fact remains that, this technology holds the promise of increased productivity. However, this promise is not realized due to the limitless abilities of those who make use of computers. In fact, effective use of computers depends on individuals’ computer literacy and it has been widely recognized as a vital skill. The concept of computer literacy refers to the knowledge and ability to use computer and related technologies efficiently, with a range of skills covering levels from elementary use to programming and advanced problem solving. It also means the control level someone has with using computer programmes and other applications that are associated with computers. Another valuable component of computer literacy involves the knowledge of how computers work and operate (Wikipedia 2008). Similarly, to be computer literate according to Bada, Adewole and Olalekan, (2009) means ability to tell the computer what you want it to do and understand what the computer says. This means that, to be computer literate amounts to being able to read, write and speak the language of the computer.
It is in recognition of the above, according to Bada et al (2009), that the Federal Government of Nigeria in 1987, launched the National Policy on Computer Literacy at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education to among other objectives equip the individual or student with thorough understanding of the concept of the computer in order to fit into the “next century”. Furthermore, the National Information Technology Policy, (2000) observed that, information technology is the bedrock for national survival and development in a rapidly changing global environment. This informed the introduction of the National Policy For Information Technology (IT) with the vision statement: To make Nigeria an IT capable country in Africa and a key player in the information society by the year 2005, using IT as the engine for sustainable development and global competitiveness. This policy as put in place by the Federal Government of Nigeria was received with open-arms and regarded as technological innovation in education practiced in Nigeria institutions of learning. With these, all the state governments throughout Nigeria followed the policy to introduce computer literacy programmes in the state owned institutions of learning.
It is within this premise according to Mohammed and Muazu, (2009) that the Nasarawa State Government in 2002 signed into law a bill ensuring that schools, ministries and parastatals across the state are fully connected to the internet and has pleged to encourage the study and use of ICT in schools. The target is to ensure that, individuals in whatever field of endeavour embrace the computer technology, with a view to enhancing free flow of information. It is based on these that the Nasarawa state University Keffi (NSUK) established in 2001, ( Academic Planing Unit 2010), has launched Internet facilities within the campus. This is also in pursuance of the aim that established the university which is to provide avenue for the indigenes of the state to pursue and acquire university education which in the long run, will prepare the graduates and equip them with adequate skills needed for the development of the state and the country at large.
Similarly, the University of Jos (UNIJOS) established in 1975 as a Federal University in Plateau State, Nigeria, has in line with the government policy launched the ICT policy aimed at providing a conducive ICT environment for both the staff and students to acquire the necessary computer skills required to fit into the 21st century (Wikipedia 2011). This, if jealously pursued will create a difference in the day-to-day activities of the institution.
Computer technology has come to stay. Education and training of University graduates has to be such that it empowers them to unleash their potentials as they endeavour to offer relevant and efficient services within the current levels of technological sophistication. Hence the need for academic staff of universities who are in the fore front in the teaching , learning , research , publishing and community services to keep abreast of time. Anything short of this may be of grevious consequence to the educational system and the Nation at large. This is because the staff may not be armed enough to produce graduates that will meet the taste of time. It is against this background that the researcher is assessing the computer literacy skills of academic staff of NSUK and UNIJOS
Statement of the Problem
The need for computer technology and literacy in educational system has become more relevant, as such, acquisition of computer literacy skills among academic staff has been viewed as a prerequisite in adoption and integration of computers in schools system. This is because, the computer can provide a convenient technique for designing and developing a course of instructions. These skills such as word processing, e-mailing, surfing the internet, ability to create and use data base, create/use a power point or graphic file, printing of documents etc if acquired will no doubt expose the academics to varieties of information that will equip them to face the task ahead.
However, it has been observed during preliminary visits to NSUK and UNIJOS that, in spite of the multiplicity of advantages offered by the computer, the academic staff seem to possess inadequate computer literacy skills, and that the use of computer for academic work also seems to be minimal in these institutions among the academics. The conventional method appeared to dominate research, teaching and learning activities of these institutions. This is supported by Ogunrewo, (2010) in an appraisal of internet usage among academic staff of universities, that, academic staff do not adequately ultilize internet facilities.
Furthermore, the researcher’s interactions with some members of the staff indicate that most of them seem to be ignorant of the various computer literacy skills acquisition methods, and that economic factors and time constraint appeared to be factors militating against the acquisition of computer literacy skill among academic staff.
These scenarios if not urgently addressed, will have far reaching negative effects on both the staff and the products of these universities. The staff may not be able to adequately access current information to update their knowledge for effective teaching. This will lead to producing half baked graduates that may not be adequately prepared to face the challenges of the wider society.
Finally, the researcher’s extensive search of the literature shows that, within the context of this research, no work has ever been conducted on the assessment of computer literacy of academic staff of NSUK and UNIJOS. This therefore calls for the need for an assessment of computer literacy skills of the academic staff of these institutions. This research is therefore being carried out to fill this gap.
Purpose of Study
The purpose of this study is to assess the computer literacy skills of academic staff of NSUK and UNIJOS. Specifically, the study will:
- Find out the computer literacy skills possessed by both academic staff members of NSUK and UNIJOS
- Assess the areas to which the academic staff members employ computer skills in carrying out their work.
- Find out the methods available for acquiring computer literacy skills by the academic staff of NSUK and UNIJOS.
- Find out the effectiveness of the methods of computer literacy skills acquisition among the academic staff members.
- Determine problems that hinder the acquisition of the right level of computer literacy skills by academic staff members .
- Identify strategies for the enhancement of computer literacy skills among academic staff members of these Universities.
This study will be guided by the following research questions:
- What are the computer literacy skills possessed by the academic staff members of NSUK and UNIJOS ?
- What are those areas to which the academic staff of NSUK and UNIJOS employ computer literacy skills in carrying out their work?
- What are the available methods used by these staff members in the acquisition of computer literacy skills?
- How effective are the methods used by the academic staff in acquiring computer literacy skills?
- What are the problems that hindered the academic staff members of NSUK and UNIJOS in the acquisition of computer literacy skills?
- In what ways can the problems faced by the academic staff in the acquisition of computer literacy skills be improved?
Significance of Study
This study which seeks to assess the computer literacy skills of academic staff of universities will no doubt add to the existing body of knowledge in the department of library and information science.In addition, the findings of this work are expected to be of benefit to the academic staff, the management of the two universities and other researchers.
To the academic staff, it will reveal their weaknesses and strengths in the areas of computer literacy skills acquisition. It will also benefit them as it will identify those areas for which the computer can be used to enhance academic work. These will enable them to adjust accordingly.
Also expected to benefit from the findings are the managements of the two universities as the findings will enable them to understand better the various methods of computer literacy skills acquisitions available. This will guide management in the decision on the choice of the most appropriate method(s) to adopt in the training and retraining of academic staff in the area of computer literacy skills acquisition.
Above all, the findings are expected to identify the major hindrances and remedies for effective acquisition of computer literacy skills. This will help management to adapt adequate means towards enhancing the acquisition of computer literacy skills among the academics.
Furthermore, researchers conducting empirical and non-empirical studies related to this topic will find this work relevant.
Scope of the Study
This study intends to focus on the concepts of computer literacy of academic staff. It will discuss in details the nature of computer literacy skills possessed by the academics, the areas that academic staff apply these skills for academic work, the methods and the effectiveness of the skills acquisition methods, the challenges as well as the remedies to overcome the various challenges militating against the acquisition of these skills.
The work covers Nasarawa state University, situated in Keffi and University of Jos sited in Jos, Plateau State, all within North central Nigeria