JITE-Research Volume 5, Number 1, ISSN 1539-3585 Publisher: Informing Science Institute
Stakeholders, such as future employers, parents, and educators, have raised their expectations of college graduates in the area of computer literacy. Computer skills and understanding are especially critical for business management graduates, who are expected to use computer technology as a tool in every aspect of their career. Business students should be able to show an enhanced understanding of computer literacy as they progress through each year of their college experience. An ideal final assessment should show that these students are able to make use of their computer skills in high-level problem solving situations. At the institution in this study, Utah Valley State College (UVSC), business management majors are required to complete a computer competency requirement early in their program by either taking a comprehensive computer applications course or by passing a state-wide computer proficiency exam. Later in their junior or senior year, these business students take a Management Information Systems (MIS) course where they are again expected to complete targeted business problems using spreadsheet, database, word processing, or presentation applications. These assigned business problems begin to approach the level of problem-solving expected by future employers. Instructors of the MIS course were seeing a lack of preparation and understanding as business management majors attempted to complete the assigned problems. Objective and subjective computer competency evaluations were given to business management students during their freshman, junior, and senior years. The result of these evaluations showed a decrease in students’ skill level and confidence level in some of the key computer literacy areas by graduation. When current or future employers were asked what computer literacy skills were most needed in business graduates, they ranked word processing and spreadsheet skills highest. In order to narrow the focus of this case study, spreadsheet use and confidence was singled out because this was the area in which our students seemed to need the most reinforcement and was highly valued by our local employers. At a future time, the participants of this study plan to extend this evaluation into other computer competency areas. A literature review was conducted to determine possible courses of action that could be taken to address the poor retention and advancement of some of the key computer literacy skills in business management majors. After examining our school’s goals and constraints, we formulated a change management plan that would help move our students from their novice use of computer skills into the intermediate or advanced application of spreadsheets, which was the most deficient area identified by current employers of our graduates.. The six-step change management plan is outlined in this paper. An ongoing assessment of senior business management students will be conducted yearly and a follow-up study will report these results after two years. Although the approach taken at our institution to address the computer skill retention problem is specific to our needs, it is hoped that the framework provided here will aid others who are seeking to address similar problems in their programs.
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