A descriptive study on the utilization of internet as an academic tool among undergraduate nursing students, at a selected University in KwaZulu-Natal.
Background to the study: The Internet is rapidly becoming an important learning tool in academic institutions and workplaces. In academic institutions it plays a pivotal role in meeting information and communication needs of students, academics and researchers. Despite internet becoming an important information gathering and dissemination tool, literature reflects under-utilization both in academic and in practice settings for a number of reasons. This study therefore described the utilization of internet as an academic tool among undergraduate nursing students in a selected University in KwaZulu Natal in order to establish ways of enhancing its utilization. Methodology: A quantitative, non-experimental, descriptive design was used in this study. The population of the study was 222, and the the sample size was 141 of undergraduate nursing students which was calculated using Raosoft sample size calculator. The sample was stratified according to the percentages of the population in the Nursing program and the year of the study of the respondents. However, only 115 agreed to participate in this study and the response rate was rate therefore 81.1%. Data was collected using a survey after obtaining ethical clearance from the university and were analyzed descriptively. Findings: The findings revealed that participants perceived themselves to be at different levels of utilizing the Internet; intermediate level (32.2%) advanced level (19.1%) competent level (29.6%), beginner level (17.4%) and expert level (1.7%). The results reflected traditional university students as better equipped to use the Internet than non-traditional university students. The Internet was used for different purposes including; academic (96.5%); communication (82.6%), pleasure (71.3%), work related activity (53.9%) and shopping (13.9%). Facebook (77.4%) was the most commonly used social network followed by the twitter (24.3%). Challenges cited covered restricted access to certain sites (62.6%), very slow internet connection (55.7%), limited training in the use of the Internet (38.3%), limited number of computers (37.4%). The majority of the participants (89%) singled out training on internet use as priority with specific focus on basic IT skills (72.2%), accessing academic related material (70.4%), using Moodle (51.3%), Turnitin (35.7%) and endnote (33.9%). Conclusion: Contrary to other studies, this study reflected that students do use the Internet for a number of reasons. They however recommend structured support on how to use internet for academic purposes.