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The role of self-regulation in the development of computer literacy at a vocational college in the Western Cape
Elias, Loren Caron
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In TVET colleges, in the Business faculty students’ need to be computer literate in order pass and graduate. All the students in the Business Faculty at a TVET college in the Western Cape of South Africa have a subject Computer Practice, which is a practical subject where they learn the basics about computers and develop computer literacy. The key concern in this study is to determine how self-regulation can explain why some participants have high computer literacy and others have low computer literacy. Participants in this study are not familiar with personal computers and this in turn has a negative impact on student’s learning at the TVET college. The importance of self-regulated learning (SRL) is emphasised by the importance of developing not only subject knowledge, but higher-order thinking skills, critical thinking skills and life-long learning, so that students are able to prepare themselves for an ever-changing world. SRL can also refer to the degree to which students are proactive and responsible participants of their own learning process. In order to o address the research questions, the researcher made use of a sequential explanatory mixed-method design. The quantitative phase was first conducted and allowed the researcher to investigate the phenomenon of self-regulation in the participants’ computer literacy skills, in a vocational college and then a qualitative phase followed in order to explain the phenomena identified in the quantitative phase. The results of this study indicate that self-regulation can help to explain why some participants have high computer literacy and others have low computer literacy. Both groupings were able to engage successfully in task analysis skills and have the ability to use and set goals, they make use of the skill of strategic planning, especially with regards to time management and planning, although low computer literates tend to rely on the lecturer more. Furthermore, both cohorts are able to use self-recording strategies by checking their notes, taking notes, keeping track of things and asking for help. They are also both able to engage in self-evaluation and check their goals. But where self-regulation is able to explain the differing levels of computer literacy is in the self-reaction phase. Here there is a difference between what high computer literates do. High computer literates are able to try new things, work things out for themselves, try different strategies if they do not achieve their goals and are able to work on their own. Low computer literates on the other hand always tend to ask for help rather than react independently and state that trying harder might produce a different result. High computer literates therefor engage in adaptive self-reaction. There were other issues that came to the fore in this study that are not related to self-regulation and could help explain why the participants have such low levels of computer literacy. What the computer literacy test and interviews showed is that the participants do not understand exactly what computer literacy entails, that they are governed by fear of computers and that many of them do not have personal computers on which to practice. Furthermore, 80% of the population are being taught in a language that is not their home language. Language issues have come to the fore in this study, as the participants have indicated that they often do not understand what is expected of them. In conclusion, it is extremely important to be computer literate because computers have become part of our everyday lives. For students to have a successful academic learning outcome, prime factors such as self-efficacy, commitment and self-regulation strategies are needed. Together with these prime factors, the input and support from the educator would also lead to promoting academic achievements and life-long learning.