TSS E-mail Survey Results

Lorraine Sherry, University of Colorado, Denver
Spring 1995

In the spring of 1995, we distributed an e-mail survey to faculty and students in the TSS Division. Seven teachers and 66 students responded. Some of that information guided us in developing our new Home Page, job aids, and other types of learner support. Here are the results of that survey.

We are online. 59 respondents already had e-mail accounts on one of the UCD computers (including new or recently expired accounts), commercial accounts, or accounts at work. 29 learned how to use e-mail in TSS classes or courses from other universities. The others learned on their own, with individual assistance by graduate assistants, at work, or from friends.

We are mobile. Those who use e-mail nearly every day connect from work or from home. Those who use it weekly or infrequently connect from the IT lab or from home. A few use the student computer labs in NC 1208 and NC 2206. Those who have commercial accounts tend to be frequent users from home. 60 of the 73 respondents have a computer and modem, though about half were unsure of the modem's speed.

We have good e-mail access. Most felt their e-mail service was reliable and accessible, and that their system permitted them to download and save files. For the one-quarter of respondents who answered "don't know" to the question about downloading files, we have a job aid on the On-line Helpdesk which will guide them through the process.

We have different reasons for using e-mail. When asked to rate the usefulness of a variety of reasons for using e-mail, the responses tended to cluster into four groups: local access and communication, scholarly research, collaboration, and information dissemination.

  1. Very useful:
    use e-mail, locate instructional materials, transfer files from remote locations, consult with your classmates, instructor, and advisor;
  2. Moderately useful:
    do literature searches, access electronic publications, articles, and scholarly journals, transfer information between home computer and university account, and organize, store, and print information in student account;
  3. Somewhat useful:
    observe how other schools are using the Internet, participate in electronic discussion groups, collaborate with scholars from other universities worldwide;
  4. Less useful:
    author electronic articles with hypertext links to remote sources, publish online documents for the world to see.

Though the Internet affords a means of world-wide collaboration and knowledge-building, our virtual community is not quite ready to enter the global Internet community. To assist with this enculturation process, the tutorials under "UCD Internet Support" on the SOE Home Page will enable you to create, share, and disseminate your research papers and projects on-line. We will try to encourage this trend in the future.

We have a mix of challenged and experienced users with different needs. Respondents were asked to identify the challenges they encountered using e-mail. From those responses, we built an affective profile, and then separated the early adapters from the more challenged group. This information was correlated with the rankings for the eight training and performance support aids which we were considering. The rankings were very different for each group.

From most important to least important, the rankings for the challenged group were: help from graduate assistants, workshops, classes, paper tutorials, interactive demonstrations, brochures, booklets, and on-line tutorials. New users seek face-to-face instruction: either individual attention by graduate assistants in the lab, or one- to two-hour workshops and formal classes. On-line tutorials were at the bottom of the list, with on-line demonstrations and paper aids considered to be of moderate to low importance.

The early adopters, including experienced and frequent users, ranked the training and support aids in quite a different order. From most to least important, these were: on-line tutorials, workshops, paper tutorials, interactive demonstrations, booklets, classes, brochures, and help from graduate assistants. This group seems comfortable with tutorials, both on-line and paper, whereas one-on-one assistance from graduate assistants was at the bottom of the list.

Interestingly, both groups ranked one- to two-hour workshops very highly (rank = 2), whereas classes were ranked third from the top by the challenged group, and third from the bottom by the frequent users.

How have we responded to your needs? Six months have elapsed between the distribution of the questionnaires and the final compilation and analysis of the data. Meanwhile, ILT professors have added introductory telecommunications classes to the course offerings for every semester up to the millennium! Students enrolled in classes or seminars which use e-mail for class discussion groups and information sharing will be informed of this at the beginning of the semester, and will be given whatever assistance is necessary to use e-mail effectively. Brochures describing how to access and share information using the UCD system, either through UCD student accounts or outside, are available outside the computer lab in NC 5032. We have installed Netscape on the computers in NC 5032, and we have developed a standard template for creating your own home page on the WWW.

Students may use either the suggestion box or the mail feature at the bottom of the new SOE Home Page to address individual questions to members of the Internet Task Force, who have been serving as advisors to the ILT program for the past year. You'll also find links to Instructional Technology Connections, the Online Helpdesk, and other UCD resources and tutorials; descriptions of the graduate programs and their requirements; postings about internships and assistantships; e-mail addresses of professors; a suggestion box and a mailbox; and other on-line information that you requested in the survey. For those who expressed an interest in professional development and collaboration, we've posted a list of organizations and conferences, along with calls for papers and due dates. Examples of faculty and student research are also available through the Home Page, under "Scholarly Products".

How can you help us? Feel free to use the suggestion box on the SOE Home Page; your suggestions for improvement will help us to respond to your changing needs.

[Note: The original SOE Home Page was revised after this document was published.]