Student Use of the Internet and Their Attitudes on Computer Ethics, with Regards to Internet Use
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Almost overnight, the nation's college campuses got wired. Students used the Internet to view professors' Power Point presentations, consult faculty advisors through email, and stay in touch with friends back home via email and Messenger Services. Now, on-campus Internet use has experienced exponential growth. At the University of Southern California, for example, Internet use has quadrupled in just the past year (Armstrong, 2000). What exactly are student doing on the Internet? Is it mostly recreational activities or academic-based?
To accommodate this vast increase in Internet usage, universities struggle to strike a balance that allows reasonable recreational use and more legitimate scholarly pursuits (Armstrong, 2000). The increased versatility that the Internet offers has increased its usage and the likelihood of its misuse (Banerjee et al., 1998). Misuse and methods that regulate such behavior, such as policies, bring about the relatively new and developing subject of computer ethics (Gotterbarn, 1992:p. 75).
The purpose of this study was two fold. The first purpose was to determine the task based and non-task based use of the Internet by Southwest Texas State University patrons that frequented the Alkek Library Computer Lab. Secondly, the evaluation of Southwest Texas State University patrons' attitudes with regard to their perception of unethical uses of the Internet was assessed (attitudes should reflect the use of the Internet on university hardware provided for academic purposes, in a campus computer lab). A study was conducted with survey instruments to acquire data that pertained to university patrons' use of the Internet. The surveys were administered to university patrons that utilized computer lab services during survey distribution periods. Statistical methods, to include mode, frequency distribution, and percent, were used to analyze the raw data collected from the surveys. The findings from these analyses concluded that the Alkek Library Computer Lab patrons used the Internet for more task based (academic) purposes, although recreational email (non-task based) received very frequent use. The data also showed that survey respondents felt unethical use of the computer lab resources consisted of all non-task based subcategories, with the exception of recreational email. The overall perception of patron use of the computer lab indicated that academic assignments are used more frequently and take priority over non-task based activities.