Native or Novice?: An Exploratory Study of the Access to and Use of Digital Technologies among Pathway Students

Native or Novice?: An Exploratory Study of the Access to and Use of Digital Technologies among Pathway Students

Donna M. Velliaris, Paul Breen
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0039-1.ch001
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Access to and use of technology by students deemed to be ‘Digital Natives' studying in the Higher Education (HE) sector has been an area of much interest, speculation and publication. This chapter reports on a small-scale exploratory study that aimed to uncover the digital technology access and practices in both everyday life and academic study of ‘new' international first-year ‘pathway' students at the Eynesbury Institute of Business and Technology (EIBT). The purpose of this study was to contribute to the debate on digital natives by providing a ‘piece of evidence' on the access to and use of digital technologies by a group of pre-university pathway students. This exploratory study stemmed from the realisation that EIBT lecturers could better meet the needs of the current generation and cohort of 20+ ethnically diverse students, and help them acculturate and transition as lifelong learners who are able to adapt to an evolving information landscape in Australian HE and upon their return home.
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Founded in 1998, the Eynesbury Institute of Business and Technology (EIBT) in South Australia, offers pre-university pathways that attract students early in their education lifecycle and secure their tertiary destination prior to them meeting university entrance requirements (Bode, 2013; Fiocco, 2006; Navitas, 2014; Velliaris & Willis, 2014; Velliaris, Willis, & Breen, 2015a). Specific to this research are the international students who enter EIBT to undertake a Diploma in: Business; Information Technology; or Engineering packaged with The University of Adelaide or the University of South Australia.

Though accessible to local students, student recruitment is predominantly directed towards full fee-paying international students who: (a) have completed Year 11 high school in Australia and would prefer to continue their studies in a different academic context; (b) have completed Year 12 high school in Australia, but did not obtain an ATAR [Australian Tertiary Admission Rank] sufficient for direct entry into university; (c) have graduated from high school abroad, but whose English language proficiency did not meet the minimum requirement for direct entry into university; or (d) are 20+ years of age with a relevant employment history (Velliaris & Breen, 2014; Velliaris & Coleman-George, 2014, 2015a, 2015b; Velliaris & Willis, 2014; Velliaris, Willis, & Breen, 2015b).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Computer Literacy: Understanding the basic processes of computers and technology and being able to use those processes.

EIBT: The Eynesbury Institute of Business and Technology offers full fee-paying pre-university pathways for predominantly international students entering one of two South Australian higher education institutions: The University of Adelaide ; or The University of South Australia. EIBT is located in a modern, five level building in the centre of the city of Adelaide opposite the Central Market and China Town.

Diploma: In Australia, an undergraduate diploma refers to an advanced level program completed in the vocational education and training sector or university. This is academically equivalent to first-year and, depending on students’ results, may lead straight into the second year of a bachelor degree, with full credit for the first-year of the degree.

Formal Learning: Learning provided by an education or training institution, structured in terms of learning aims and objectives, involving the presence of a teacher or trainer, and leading to certification or an award of qualification or credit.

Pedagogy: The art and science of teaching, and not in its narrower sense of teaching the ‘young’. Its common usage is now sufficiently broad that there is no need to import the word ‘andragogy’, a term which has only limited currency in the mainstreams of higher education practice.

Digital Native: The term ‘digital native’ applies it to a new group of students enrolling in educational establishments referring to the young generation as ‘native speakers’ of the digital language of computers, videos, video games, social media and other sites on the Internet. That is, those born into societies in which information technology permeates all aspects of everyday life, thus influencing socialisation patterns. The reception and application of digital information is often second-nature to digital natives.

Technologies: This includes much more than computers and digital technologies used for information, communication and entertainment. Technologies are the diverse range of products that make up the designed world. These products extend beyond artefacts designed and developed by people and include processes, systems, services and environments.

ICT: Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is often used as an extended synonym for Information Technology (IT), but is a more specific term that stresses the role of unified communication i.e., any product that will store, retrieve, manipulate, transmit or receive information electronically in a digital form. For example: radio, television, cellular phones, computer and network hardware and software, and satellite systems, as well as the services and applications associated with them, such as videoconferencing and distance learning.

Digital Literacy: The knowledge, skills, and behaviours used in a broad range of digital devices such as smart phones, tablets, laptops and desktop PCs, all of which are seen as ‘network’ rather stand-alone. Computer literacy preceded digital literacy, and refers to knowledge and skills in using traditional computers (such as desktop PCs and laptops) with a focus on practical skills in using software application packages, whereas digital literacy is a more ‘contemporary’ term focused on one’s practical abilities in using digital devices.

International Students: Individuals enrolled in the Eynesbury Institute of Business and Technology on temporary student visas and who are almost exclusively Non-English Speaking Background (NESB).

Informal Learning: Learning which is not provided by a formal educational or training institution and oftentimes does not lead to certification. Informal learning results from daily, social life activities related to education, work, and socialising as examples.

Pathway Provider: Educational institutions that offer students alternative forms of entry into university degree programs. Applicants may include: early school leavers; those that have not achieved the academic and/or English requirements to obtain direct entry; or students looking to return to study after a period of absence.

Web 2.0: The term given to describe a second generation of the World Wide Web that is focused on people collaborating and sharing information online.

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