“How do I send an Email?”. Technology Challenges for First-Year Students in the College Library

Published date21 September 2015
Date21 September 2015
AuthorMichelle Eichelberger,Bonnie Brubaker Imler
Subject MatterLibrary & information science,Librarianship/library management,Library technology
How do I send an Email?
Technology Challenges for First-Year
Students in the College Library
Michelle Eichelberger
Alfred C. OConnell Library, Genesee Community College,
Batavia, New York, USA, and
Bonnie Brubaker Imler
Robert E. Eiche Library, Penn State Altoona, Altoona, Pennsylvania, USA
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to identify the ability of college freshmen to successfully use
common academic software and manage files.
Design/methodology/approach In total, 39 college freshmen from three college campuses were
recruited for the study. An online test environment and screen recording software were used to
measure student proficiency in using PDFs, Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Excel,
Gmail, and Windows. Data were collected in September 2013.
Findings Student use of academic technology is common, but their software skills are not
comprehensive or deep. Students were most proficient at using PDFs and Microsoft Word.
Microsoft Excel tasks were the most difficult for the students, and many struggled to use Gmail
to compose a message and send an attachment. Students were able to open a PowerPoint
document and view a slideshow, but they were less comfortable navigating the softwaresprinting
Originality/value Having concrete data about student technology skills, rather than anecdotal data
from reference desk interactions, can help librarians design improved instruction and tutorials that
target areas of student technology weakness.
Keywords Academic libraries, Students, Software tools, Reference services, Computer software,
Electronic mail
Paper type Research paper
Since 2004, the Educause Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) has performed
an annual study of undergraduate students and their information technology
experiences and preferences. One of the top nine findings from the 2014 ECAR Study
of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology was that Studentsacademic
use of technology is widespread but not deep(Dahlstrom and Bichsel, 2014, p. 4).
This finding can be confirmed at the reference desk in any academic library in the USA,
where librarians have grown accustomed to answering questions about technology in
addition to more traditional research-focussed questions.
Over the past five years, librarians at three academic campuses in the North-eastern
USA have observed a persistent and increasing number of student technology
questions, oftencoming from students considered to be Digital Natives(Prensky, 2001).
These students,though proficient in social and/or entertainment technology, e.g. gaming,
Instagram, iTunes, etc., seem to lack the basic technology skills expected by their
professors, including skills related to saving and organizing files, creating and editing
Microsoft Word documents, using e-mail effectively, and managing Microsoft
PowerPoint and Excel assignments. The type and consistency of student questions at
Library Hi Tech
Vol. 33 No. 3, 2015
pp. 329-339
©Emerald Group Publis hing Limited
DOI 10.1108/LHT-03-2015-0027
Received 16 March 2015
Revised 18 May 2015
Accepted 17 June 2015
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
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