Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Thomas Schnell, Ph.D.


Kent Farnsworth

Lloyd Richardson

Margaret Scordias


The purpose of this research was to determine the extent that computer-related factors affect the success of nontraditional college students. Since nontraditional students typically have fewer skills than traditionally-aged students, they may be less efficacious regarding their ability to use technology. Unfortunately, such reduced confidence may adversely affect the entire college experience for students, and ultimately, successful employment. The simple process of obtaining information on campus websites may be daunting enough; however, when students enter the classroom, they often find that course requirements include considerable amounts of computer use. Therefore, in addition to learning specific course content, nontraditional students must also learn how to operate computers and conduct Internet research. Such expectations may reduce the potential for college success. To conduct the research, surveys were administered to students attending two Midwestern community colleges. Using the resultant data, various analyses were conducted to examine interactions between computer-related variables and course grades and completion rates. Results indicated that high school access was the most significant factor in determining computer efficacy in college students. The second most successful method of obtaining confidence was found among students who used computers for work. Students employed with computers also enrolled in more online courses than students who were unemployed or who worked in non-technical positions. Additional factors that correlated to efficacy were high-bandwidth Internet access and the availability of computer-related devices. Although more nontraditional than traditional students withdrew from college classes in general, nontraditional students were not more likely to withdraw from computer literacy or online courses. Therefore, adult students seemed to compensate for their reduced proficiency by persisting in the classes necessary to improve skills. Computer efficacy appeared to be more critical than computer skills in online course enrollment. Students with greater confidence in their abilities enrolled in more online courses, even if their actual skills were lower than other students. Additional relationships between computer skills and efficacy and college success factors such as persistance and improved grades are also discussed.

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