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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Computer literacy and attitudes towards e-learning among first year medical students

Thomas Michael Link* and Richard Marz

Author Affiliations

Core Unit for Medical Education, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria

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BMC Medical Education 2006, 6:34  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-34

Published: 19 June 2006

Abstract

Background

At the Medical University of Vienna, most information for students is available only online. In 2005, an e-learning project was initiated and there are plans to introduce a learning management system. In this study, we estimate the level of students' computer skills, the number of students having difficulty with e-learning, and the number of students opposed to e-learning.

Methods

The study was conducted in an introductory course on computer-based and web-based training (CBT/WBT). Students were asked to fill out a questionnaire online that covered a wide range of relevant attitudes and experiences.

Results

While the great majority of students possess sufficient computer skills and acknowledge the advantages of interactive and multimedia-enhanced learning material, a small percentage lacks basic computer skills and/or is very skeptical about e-learning. There is also a consistently significant albeit weak gender difference in available computer infrastructure and Internet access. As for student attitudes toward e-learning, we found that age, computer use, and previous exposure to computers are more important than gender. A sizable number of students, 12% of the total, make little or no use of existing e-learning offerings.

Conclusion

Many students would benefit from a basic introduction to computers and to the relevant computer-based resources of the university. Given to the wide range of computer skills among students, a single computer course for all students would not be useful nor would it be accepted. Special measures should be taken to prevent students who lack computer skills from being disadvantaged or from developing computer-hostile attitudes.