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World-Wide-Web use in UK higher education: professional tool or personal toy?

Niman, Jerry and Hackney, Ray A. (2002) World-Wide-Web use in UK higher education: professional tool or personal toy? Interactive learning environments, 10 (1). pp. 23-38. ISSN 1049-4820

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Abstract

Since its inception, the volume of WWW traffic has grown by a factor of 10 each year (Berners-Lee, 1996) with increasing amounts of both valuable information and trivial or even harmful material. The pressure on resources in higher education also continues to grow, and in particular the cost of providing enough transatlantic capacty to cope with demand continues to escalate (Dearing, 1997; Schonfelder, 1997; Read, 1997). This paper explores the use of the world-wide-web (WWW) within the specific context of a large UK university. It considers, in particular, a consideration of the extent of WWW adoption and use for professional application compared to personal interest. The study involved an analysis of student leisure browsing through direct interaction with the subjects, using both quantitative and qualitative techniques. A survey was distributed to a sample of 12,728 students and 3,883 staff nationally, and 2,927 students and 941 staff at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to this postal survey, a set of 26 face-to-face interviews with a specialist student sample was conducted. It is concluded that, on average, leisure activities comprise 35%±5% of all student use of the WWW. The findings include evidence demonstrating that the results may be generalised. The study also proposes that leisure browsing should not be seen as something to be discouraged, but that it can contribute to the overall educational experience.

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