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Background of the Study
Information has to do with analyzed data because it is what has been adequately conceptualized that can be transmitted. Without grasping a concept very well, it cannot be transmitted or transferred to the next person or used for decision-making. According to Obi (2012) when the information has been transmitted, it becomes useful because it will be used, accepted or not accepted. Meaning that messages that do not make meaning to the recipient are not information but data.
Information might mean different things to different people, but the uniqueness of it is that it unleashes knowledge to those who have it and makes communication effective. According to Chain (2007) “information” is used to refer to a number of phenomena. One of it is that, anything perceived as potentially signifying like printed books which are to integrate the selection of pre-knowledge are constantly opened to revision. That is, new communication in accordance with the intentions of the sender. Printed books and online materials are sources of information, because it gives the reader the opportunity to have new knowledge about ideas, gives the room to be informed, recreate the mindset, review the concepts and is able to communicate effectively in accordance with the intensions of the sender or author of the message. Good, reviewed and understanding of information leads to good and effective communication.
Information is the pivot through which communication revolves. Neither organization nor effective society runs smoothly without information. In line with the above, Osuala (2009) opined, that a digital nervous system that integrates knowledge
management, business operations and electronic commerce allows an organization to communicate and accomplish its tasks digitally while simultaneously enabling the sharing of information throughout the organization. If there is information, there might certainly going to be communication no matter the means or channel of communicating it. Information is a body of organized data which is meaningful to the end-users or recipients (Obi, 2012). It is fact, instructions and processed data that have been organized in any medium or form for productive use by the end-users or recipients. For it to be used productively, the information has to be meaningful because it enhances good communication.
Communication is neither the transmission of message nor the message itself. It is the mutual understanding and judgment originating between the sender and the receiver (Management Study Guide, 2014). Communication is the essence of management, as such, without effective communication, the functions of management which are planning, organizing, staffing, directing and controlling cannot be performed effectively. Obi (2012) stated earlier that an effective communication is made only when there is feedback mechanism and could take any mode depending on the situation. The Author stated that communication in the world has gone global; hence the application of corresponding skills to evolving technologies will help in knitting the world into a global village. Communication as the process of sending and receiving messages through verbal and non-verbal cues or means. Verbal communication, which most of it is translated to written communication are communicated through the technological gadgets, not just for personal use but also for the masses. Nwana (2008) opined that communication is a continuous and interactive process. Modern communication use technological channels through technological gadgets in most organizations which require technical know-how by the users especially to the administrative assistants. Communication in the modern organization requires technology to a very large extent.
Due to the dynamic world of technology, most tools, skills and usage of information and communication technology have become necessary to everyone (Osinem and Nwoji, 2005). According to Osinem and Nwoji (2010), information and Communication Technologies is a technology for processing information, especially, information that lends itself to algorithmic processes with low levels of human intervention. Information and Communication Technology is the technology required for information processing especially the use of electronic computers and computer software to convert, store, protect, process, transmit and retrieve information from anywhere, anytime (Osinem and Nwoji, 2010). Information and Communication Technology makes things easy-going in the society and places of work. This is the reason Julius and Loretta (2005), stated that technology is the organization of knowledge for practical purposes like making, modifying, using and knowing of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems and methods of organization in order to solve a problem. Technology is used to improve a pre-existing solution to a problem, achieve a goal, handle an applied input and output relation or perform a specific function (Franklin, 2009). In handling or manipulating the Information and Communication Technologies, the users need skills in the use of the technological tools, to enhance effective manipulation of the gadgets, which the administrative assistants in the Colleges of Education are no exception.
Skill seems to expose the user of equipment or gadgets to proficiency and makes the work achieve a great level of success. Skill also allows for showing and exhibiting high dexterity in showing such technique on task. Salas, Bowers and Edens (2014), viewed skill as a goal-directed, well-organised behaviour that is acquired through practice and performed with the economy of effort. Because skills are acquired through practice, its beneficiary can be trained generally by means of extended practice. The administrative assistants in possessing relevant skills on ICTs, can be trained and retrained by means of continuous practice on the ICT skills that they lack, especially in the Colleges of Education.
Colleges of Education are the train-the-trainers colleges, established to train and equip teachers for their esteemed functions (Excellence and Education Network, 2014). Graduates of these Colleges of Education are assigned to teach in the Nations Primary Schools, to nurture and shape the children who are the leaders of tomorrow. The objectives of the Colleges as spelt out in the Act of federal Colleges of education are as follows: To provide full-time courses in teaching, instruction and training in Technical, Vocational, Science and Arts; to conduct courses in education for qualified teachers; to arrange conferences, seminars and workshop related to the field of learning; to perform such other functions as in, the opinion of the College Council may serve to promote the objectives of the college.
To achieve the objectives of the college, there is a structure and operation by which the colleges are run. This includes the level of staff that operates in the colleges. The staff are: the Provost of the College, who is the Chief Executive of the College; Deputy Provost; the Registrar who is the Chief Administrative Officer of the college, responsible to the Provost for the day-to-day running of the college, amongst others; the Deputy Registrars, saddled with other sub-functions of the Registrar; the Bursar is responsible for the financial affairs of the college; the Librarian; Deans; Heads of Departments’ School Officers; Administrative Officers and Administrative Assistants are officers in the structure, responsible for the position in which they hold to keep the college structure running as to achieve the objectives of the organization. From the officers outlined, the Administrative Officers and Administrative office assistants work directly with each other.
The Administrative officers are more like supervisors of all happenings and the routine procedure of work processes in the organization. Osuala and Okeke (2006), opined that Administrative officers are frequently responsible for systems, analysis and design including a specialized knowledge in work simplification, work measurement, work standards, records management, forms design, electronic data processing, job analysis, job evaluation, office layout, office equipment, cost control, performance appraisal and employee selection. Administrative assistants are the job category of staff that describes and designates an individual who provides various kinds of administrative support to a superior(s) and groups in business enterprises (Ordu, 2013). The duties of an administrative assistant have mainly remained unchanged since they were known as secretaries. Their key responsibility is to keep their place of employment running smoothly, thus all of their duties relate to the operational proceedings of the office.
These duties among others, which specify their roles and functions are as follows:
Scheduling of meetings; answering of phones, managing databases, disseminating information through e-mail and internet memos, creating spread sheets, generating reports, ordering equipments, treating of incoming and outgoing files on behalf of their boss if permitted to; dispatch of treated files amongst others. The above roles and functions of the administrative assistants are carried out in the Colleges of Education.
The roles of the administrative assistants have greatly expanded since the introduction of information and communication technology to the modern office (Akpomi and Ames, 2013). Because of this, many employers seek for those who have strong computer skills and other ICT skills in general. This indicates that the basic skills of the administrative assistants are directly related to the tasks they perform, which are ICT – oriented.
The administrative assistants need information and communication technology skills in computer networking, database management, spreadsheet management and internet. Computer networking is the collection of computers, printers and other equipment that are connected together so that they can communicate with each other (Bakardijieva, 2014). Computer networking skills allows for the maintenance of files on a network server, monitor system performance, assist others with network problems, maintain machines attached to the network and modify software based on user need. The administrative office assistant should be exposed to these skills to be able to function properly in the modern office, because information could be shared or transferred without necessarily standing from the workstation, which makes work much easier.
Another aspect of the ICT which will help the administrative assistant in their work is the database management system. Database management system is a collection of programs that enables you to store, modify and extract information from a database (Beal, 2014). The skills in database management system are skills which are possessed to define, manipulate, retrieve and manage data in the database of a system. The administrative office assistant should be able to look at and analyze data, navigate database software, manage accounts and files among others.
Furthermore, the spreadsheet is another important functional aspect of the ICT. Spreadsheet management is the ability to set up tables of information, both textual and numerical on the system. It is particularly useful for calculating data using formulas and functions. The spreadsheet has the ability to recalculate results automatically when values change. Spreadsheet skills allows the administrative assistants to have an interactive forum on the computer through its application program for organization; the skill of analyzing and storing data in tabular form will aid the administrative assistant to discharge summative jobs with ease.
The internet is another ICT tool that is very important to the administrative assistants’ functions. The internet is viewed as the network of networks, web of webs, open sharing network and interconnectivity of millions of computers as single network and an electronic information superhighway (Nwana, 2008). With the internet, the administrative assistant can develop skills of browsing the net, sending electronic mail, transfer files, access and use other computers through computer networking.
Through the use of the internet, the administrative assistants in Colleges of Education with relevant skills in technology would use the internet to post information online, hold teleconferencing, publish vital information and send circular online, access both policy and personal files online, forward and retrieve information from the database, make presentations amongst others. However, the Colleges of Education in both Bayelsa and Rivers States are academic institutions of higher learning, with administrative assistants in virtually all offices of the institutions. The administrative assistants work with office software programs, including spreadsheet, databases, networking, word processing and graphic presentation software. They send e-mail and use the web for research and employer-specific applications.
The administrative assistants are also saddled with the responsibilities of assisting with typing and formatting the boss presentations, reports, manuals, newsletters, website content and other administrative publications. The needs of Colleges of Education are not always effectively met due to the shortcoming of the administrative assistants in ICT skills. Information and communication technology has gone beyond word-processing, answering calls, physical but stressful documentation, photocopying, among others and has extended to database management, networking, spreadsheet and internet amongst others. For any sound organization to survive and stand the test of time, it becomes necessary for the management to update the staff (administrative assistants) in skills acquisition for improved performance technologically.
At present, the administrative assistants find it difficult to dispatch files, files are delayed due to bureaucracy, other times lost in transit, and the administrative assistants lack interest in the use of most modern tools of the ICT which would have helped to fasttrack work processes, especially in documentation. The ICT tools available to the offices seem not to be utilized by the administrative assistants because the span of their job needed requisite ICT skills to perform the task on the tools. This study, therefore, intends to find out the information and communication technology skills needs of administrative assistants to enable productivity in their work.
Statement of the Problem
In a preliminary study conducted by the researcher, it was revealed that the administrative assistants find it difficult to transfer files through the connected computers; the administrative assistants seem not to know how to retrieve information from databases and manage the database due to lack of interest and confidence to do it, since they prefer the unduly heap of both treated and untreated files, thereby slowing down the file-movements and work processes. Also, the administrative assistants seem not to know how to explore e-mail, search engines, online collaboration, download files and make presentations online through the internet. The spreadsheet management features like keying in data and data verification, program codes, calculating data and creating analytical graphics are hardly exhibited by the administrative assistants. It was also revealed that despite the good willing and the need for ICT skills and management of staff strength, it is unfortunate to notice that training and retraining in the ICT skills and management, has taken 14 years; such training has not been carried out, rendering the administrative assistants irrelevant in other ICT-skills development within the decade, thereby incapacitating the administrative assistants (Source: Office of the Registrar, FCE(T) (Omoku, 2015). The ICT shortcomings of the administrative assistants and their level of expressed performance in the modern office, explain the reason administrative assistants in the Colleges of Education in Rivers and Bayelsa States need other ICT skills. It is believed that the information and communication technology skills can improve through the identification of their needs and expressed level of performance, then training thereafter.
Purpose of the Study
The major purpose of this study was to find out the information and communications technology skills needs of administrative assistants in Colleges of
Education in Bayelsa and Rivers States. Specifically, the study sought to:
1. find out the database management skills needs of administrative assistants.
2. determine the spreadsheet management skills needs of administrative assistants.
3. determine the computer-networking skills needs of administrative assistants.
4. find out the internet skills needs of administrative assistants.
Significance of the Study
This study would invaluably relevant to the administrative assistants; all levels of management in the Colleges of Education in Nigeria; students of Colleges of Education; the general public and the academic researchers who intend to carry out more research in this area.
The findings of this study when published will help the administrative assistants in Colleges of Education and other sectors of work to run virtual offices with less or no stress. As a motivator, the database management, spreadsheet management, internet and networking will enhance more productivity as their ICT skills will be improved upon. The findings of the study will help the administrative assistants to discharge work through the prompt handling of files and documents online. The findings on computer networking skills and internet skills will assist the administrative assistants in collection, processing, storage and dissemination of information in the Colleges effectively and efficiently to a very large extent.
Also, the study will benefit all levels of management in the Colleges of Education in Nigeria. The administrative assistants will work without stress as their management will introduce networking system and database management which will enable them to run a virtual office. The superior officers will not necessarily ask their administrative assistants to come facially to collect jobs, but can interact and execute the job virtually, through computer networking and internet skills. This will be achieved through seminars and enlightenment forum.
Students of Colleges of Education and other institutions of learning will benefit from this study, because information will be made available at first-hand. These will include announcements, notices of lecture, time-table, examination, and their venues, academic calendar, resumption and closing dates, amount of fees to pay, courses to offer and results of examination will be posted directly to the e-mail account and database of the students. The students will be acquainted of this through workshop sessions and training on how to access the portals without having facial contacts with personnel based on the findings. The database management skills needs and the internet skills needs of the students will be improved through the findings of the study when published.
The study will be a source of data for other researchers who wish to carry out further studies in the area of information and communication technology skills needs of administrative assistants and other staff of Educational institutions. The findings will contribute to the body of knowledge, by providing information to researchers for further studies in this area.
To the general public, the findings of this study will be of immense benefit, because information and communication technology is part of the society and the awareness of the skill required for ICT will grant them success in performance and manipulation of the ICT tools and subsequently introduce ICT to their various businesses.
This will be achieved through public enlightenment and mass literacy.
The following questions guided the study:
1. What are the perceived level of importance and expressed performance of administrative assistants in database management skills?
2. What are the perceived level of importance and expressed performance of administrative assistants in spreadsheet management skills?
3. What are the perceived level of importance and expressed performance of
administrative assistants in computer networking skills?
4. What are the perceived level of importance and expressed performance of
administrative assistants in internet skills?
The following null hypotheses formulated for the study were tested at 0.05 level of significance:
There is no significant difference in the mean ratings of the responses of Administrative Officers and Administrative Assistants on database management skills performance.
There is no significant difference in the mean ratings of the responses of Administrative Officers and Administrative Assistants on spreadsheet management skills performance.
There is no significant difference in the mean ratings of the responses of Administrative Officers and Administrative Assistants on computer networking skills performance.
There is no significant difference in the mean ratings of the responses of
Administrative Officers and Administrative Assistants on internet skills performance.
Delimitation of the Study
The study was delimited to the information and communication technology skills needs of administrative assistants of Colleges of Education in Bayelsa and Rivers States. The study covered the computer networking, database management, spreadsheet management and internet skills needs of the administrative assistants in the Colleges of
Education in the States.
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