E-Literacy for the Workforce: Designing Effective Instruction
A computer usage survey completed prior to instruction reflected participant experience with, and attitude toward, computers. Sixty-eight percent of participants had used e-mail while 41% had used chat groups prior to this study. There was also diversity in the frequency of computer use among participants. For example, 14% of the participants categorized themselves as heavy computer users, another 14% felt they were light computer users while another 14% considered themselves to be infrequent users. Additionally, although 59% of the participants had used a computer within seven days prior to participating in the study, 62% of those participants had used a computer for playing games while only 38% used a computer for word-processing and 46% for writing an e-mail message. These findings may suggest that although some participants are using computers, they are not necessarily gaining sufficient experience communicating with computers. Further, at the beginning of the study, 36% of the participants specifically identified writing as a significant barrier for them with regard to finding and maintaining employment.
protocol was based on reciprocal teaching, in which there was a combination
face-to-face and electronic tutorial sessions, as depicted in Table
This blend of instructional delivery proved to be an effective method
for teaching adult learners writing strategies necessary for e-literacy.
Throughout the sessions, participants consistently requested information
regarding computer use. The prompts were aimed primarily at basic computer
skills needed to participate in electronic discussions. This suggests
that the participants' limited computer experience and comfort
level may have prevented independent participation in the instruction,
had it been offered without the face-to-face component. One participant's
comment reveals the importance of the face-to-face interaction received
throughout the instruction:
To assess change in writing quality after instruction, the electronic discussion entries created during an introductory session and entries made during the final independent session were compared. Pre-and post-instruction number of words did not differ (pre-instructional mean 79 and post-instructional mean 68, t (20) = 1.77, p = .092). However, participants used an increased number of sentences after instruction than they did prior to instruction (pre-instructional mean 3.5 and post-instructional mean 4.9 (t (20) = 3.24, p = .004). This suggests that writing processes were changing; it appeared as though participants began to make more intentional, thoughtful decisions about their writing. Further, the comparison of these two groups of entries showed that 95% of participant entries contained an increased amount of explanation to support viewpoints generated. These findings suggest improvements to participants' written communication; relevant viewpoints were explained instead of including irrelevant, isolated opinions. Overall quality of participants' writing was scored using a modification of the TOWL-3. Results suggest significantly higher scores following instruction (pre-instructional mean 19.2 and post-instructional mean of 22.9 with 29 being the maximum score, t (20) = 2.43, p = .024). Explanatory quality of the participants' arguments was also assessed using a 5-point scale. This reliable scale indicated that arguments were stronger after instruction than before (pre-instruction 1.5 and post-instruction 4.7, t (19) = 12.58, p = .001).
Participant attitudes toward writing also appeared to change. Prior to the study, some participants revealed hesitation surrounding the writing process, as they were concerned with the aesthetics of their handwriting (some experienced difficulty with the mechanics of letter formation). After participating in the electronic discussions as a part of the instructional protocol, those same participants described writing using computers as being much more enjoyable than writing via the more traditional methods.
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