Pre-college Internet use and freshman year academic achievement in a private college: The effect of sociodemographic characteristics, family socioeconomic status, academic ability and high school experiences
John Bishop Nonnamaker, Fordham University, United States
Fordham University . Awarded
Despite the dramatic expansion of Internet technology on college campuses and of its increased use among college students, the assumption that such technology will enhance academic achievement in college remains untested. This dissertation is a case study of a private, liberal arts college located in Boston.
This dissertation (1) examined factors which affect pre-college Internet use for three indicators: school based—Internet use for homework/research; home based—an index comprised of email, chat and other use; and recreation Internet use for game playing and (2) analyzed the effect of these pre-college Internet use indicators on the academic achievement of freshmen at the end of their first year in college. Data come from the 1998 Student Information Form and linked data including institutional information on grades. For our conceptual model, relevant variables were drawn from the “college impact” literature, which recognizes that the student's pre-college characteristics influence their subsequent integration into the academic, both informal and formal, requirements of college life. This research also included an exploratory qualitative component where a small subset of ten students, selected on the basis of their pre-college Internet use, were interviewed during their sophomore year to enhance our understanding of pre-college and college Internet use.
The multivariate analysis of the three indicators of pre-college Internet use provided strong evidence that such use is multidimensional. Factors affecting both school based and home based Internet use were more consistent with academic hypotheses, while factors affecting game playing were more non-academic. For freshmen grades in their original form, none of the three pre-college Internet indicators were significant. For freshmen grades in the top third of their class, however, both school based and home based pre-college Internet use directly affected academic achievement with home based use enhancing academic achievement, while school based use was, unexpectedly, negative.
While the exploratory interviews support the assumption that pre-college Internet use promotes initial academic achievement, the data also suggest the complexities of this process. These data also suggest that Internet navigation skills are important to effective academic Internet use. Our home based indicator may be capturing this skill.
Nonnamaker, J.B. Pre-college Internet use and freshman year academic achievement in a private college: The effect of sociodemographic characteristics, family socioeconomic status, academic ability and high school experiences. Ph.D. thesis, Fordham University.
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