UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS USE OF INTERNET RESOURCES FOR RESEARCH PROJECT IN UNIVERSITIES IN NORTH – CENTRAL NIGERIA

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS USE OF INTERNET RESOURCES FOR RESEARCH PROJECT IN UNIVERSITIES IN NORTH – CENTRAL NIGERIA

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Abstract

This study was carried out to examine undergraduate students’ use of Internet resources for research project in Universities in North-Central Nigeria. The study was guided by six research questions. The researcher employed a survey research design. The population of the study comprised of six thousand one hundred and fifteen (6,115) final year undergraduate students in Benue State University, Makurdi; Kogi State University, Anyigba; University of Agriculture, Makurdi; Nassarawa State University, Keffi and University of Mkar, Mkar. A sample of 1,223 final year undergraduate students was used for the study using a systematic random sampling technique. Questionnaire titled “Undergraduate Students’ Use of Internet Resources for Research Project in Universities in North Central-Nigeria” was used as instrument for data collection. Mean and standard deviation were used to analyze the data collected, while t-test was used in testing the hypotheses at 0.05 level of significance. The result of the study showed that the Internet resources in university libraries and information centresare available but not adequate and not highly used for research project. It was also found that the majority of the respondents students do not possess basic Internet skills for use of Internet resources. It was recommended that libraries should organize Internet user education programs, more educational databases should be subscribed to, the university administrations should inject more funds to university libraries and information centers for the provision of more Internet resources such as electronic journals, electronic books, and online data analysis software.


CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of the Study

Libraries, irrespective of the type are meant to meet the information needs of their users. In University libraries,there are numerous library users including undergraduate students who need information for project writing. The students need information for their studies and research, while lecturers need information for their teaching and research. However, the collection of any library including university libraries cannot hold everything the users need. As such, Internet connectivity was introduced into the university libraries to augment the printed resources for undergraduate students’ use for learning and research project, (Ani, 2005).

Researchers carry out various studies using information sources of libraries. In the present dispensation, information is needed even faster than ever. Since there are many other sources from which information is acquired other than libraries, it becomes necessary that the library should do everything possible to ensure that its relevance is felt among its clients who value its usefulness on the basis of available information sources found in it (Atsugh&Gwaza, 2012).

Irrespective of the quantity of the library’s collections, it cannot hold everything the users need within its building, then Internet readily comes in to complement in its efforts to assemble information not found in the library building. Therefore, the use of Internet has greatly improved information dissemination.

Internet service provision has become a critical factor for undergraduate student’s research activities especially in developing countries including Nigeria where the problem of limited access to current and reliable information resources has not been adequately addressed. According to the World Almanac and Book of Facts (2004), there is no aspect of the contemporary world that is more influenced by the Internet than the educational system. Supporting this, Selcher (2005) observed that the Internet is a veritable tool for academic research work especially at higher education level.

Internet is a network of linked computers, which are located at different points all over the world that provide easy communication between persons and organizations no matter where they are located. The Internet is used mostly in obtaining information. Internet has many benefits in academic cycle as it provides access to global sources of information. It also gives researchers the ability to discuss and share experience with colleagues, (Ojedekun, 2001 as cited in Audu, 2006).

The Internet has a role to play in libraries, which is the hub of research activities in universities. Internet resources have significant impact on library services. It can be consulted and used like any other reference tool, it is more dynamic and far reaching than any other resource used in a library setting. It provides a medium of communication that has extended the potential of undergraduate students’ Interaction beyond the physical library to users. Adegboji and Toyo (2006) observed that Internet contributed significantly to the ease of research through downloading materials. It is believed that researchers and students are having the challenges of inadequate and out of date materials. The only way to resolve these challenges is through the use of Internet resources that are comprehensive and current information, (Kamba, 2008).

Lubans (2000) stated that Internet has effects on undergraduate students’ academic work. He observed that internet had positive influence on the number of found and quality of students’ written work. He further noted that with the indiscriminate use of internet, students are lured by easy access and often do not question the value or quality of material found on the web. The internet is a chaotic library because it displays no discernible orderly classification or categorization. It therefore poses a challenge on the students’ ability to distinguish between information from refereed scholarly journals available digitally and the digital equivalent of vanity press publications.

Basically, the Internet is the world’s computer network in which the computers are connected to share information. Preeti (2002) stated that the Internet has a number of resources such as World Wide Web (WWW), electronic mail (e-mail), File Transfer Protocols (FTP), Chat, Archives, Gopher, Telnet, Statistical Packages, Virtual Library, Search Engines, Directories and others. All these resources facilitate effective and efficient research work.

Nworuh (2001) asserted that the Internet is a series of electronic connections, a network of individual computers holding vast quantities of data that can be accessed directly from a personal computer that is purposely programmed to share services, transfer, receive and distribute information among people of similar interests and needs. Thus, it has proven to be the most important vehicle for accelerating the flow of information. Adeoti (2000) enumerated the benefits of using the Internet as it revolves round the provision of current information services. It is also used to search libraries for interesting latest discoveries; find the latest information about education, sports, medicine, engineering, airspace, agriculture, software development, latest books on politics, military, navy, and the air force or the latest in the cyber space technology. Therefore, it is important for undergraduate students to become aware of the importance of the Internet, have the knowledge and the skills for the use of Internet, and sufficiently make use of Internet resources found in the universities for their studies and research.

Research is defined by Reitz (2004) as a systematic, painstaking investigation of a topic, or in a field of study, often employed techniques of hypothesis and experimentation, undertaking by a person intent on revealing new facts, theories, or principles, or determining the current state of the knowledge of the subject. Research provides the undergraduate students with a unique and enriching activity.

Adebiji (2001) noted that students who possessed basic Internet skills such as evaluating what one found, unzipping of files, copying files, printing, starting existing programs, editing text, and so will enable them get the best out of the Internet. Users need to know how to perform decompression (Unzipping) of files (Usually large) sent over the Internet in a compressed (zipped) state for quicker transmission.

Ampka(2000) opined that undergraduate students visit to university libraries and information centers for research is frustrating due to inadequate Internet resources and lack of basic Internet skills to exploit Internet resources. Similarly, Ani (2005) identified a range of problems facing undergraduate students’ use of Internet resources as access to the Internet infrastructure and connectivity and non-sustainable Internet services in some Nigerian Universities. There exist a poor level of use of electronic journals and online databases which are essential for learning and research.

Ugbah (2010) identified some of the problems of undergraduate students’ use of internet resources as slow Internet speed, Internet facilities are not up and running at all times to meet the varied time students prefer to browse the Internet. However, Jegede (1994) noted that university libraries and information centers have the power to make positive impact on undergraduate students’ use of Internet resources but in most cases, the needed impact is lacking.

Eze and Obiozor (2005) stressed that the Internet helps researchers in their research work by enabling them to communicate freely with colleagues scattered all over the world. They can exchange knowledge and even the research findings from different locations in the world. They further explained that the presence of the file transfer protocol and the World Wide Web makes it possible to exchange visual information in readable and useable formats. For instance, charts, figures, tables, images, databases, documents and even software codes are transferred from the Internet to any remote computer to read and use. These features have made research easier around the world. It is expected that with the use of Internet resources, the quality of researchers’ project work will be good. In addition, Usun (2003) observed that the Internet can be used as a supplement to traditional instructional materials.

For universities in North-Central Nigeria, one is worried whether Internet resources are adequately available for undergraduate students’ use for research projects.Another worry wasthe extent of utilization of Internet resources by undergraduate students for research projects and whether students possess basic Internet skills for utilization of the Internet resources for research projects. The identified challenges hindering students’ use of the Internet resources are to be investigated with the hope of finding strategies for enhancement of the Internet resources usage for the undergraduate students’ research projects in North-Central Nigeria.

Undergraduate students’ research came into being when the US Army report and analysis proposed that students were losing interest in their subjects because of the lack of engagement in genuine research and that would be more likely to continue to postgraduate level and beyond if they were not engaged in real front-line research, rather than conventional course work (Russell, Hancoch, McCullough&Heiser, 2008). The objective of the research programme is to bring teaching and research closer together, since they often co-exist. It also helps them to identify future career path. After getting familiar with details and literature they knew, they may want to learn more about it. Similarly, New Mexico State University Library (2002) stated that undergraduate students’ research is important as students learn the conventions of research through practice and acquire valuable presentation skills. For them, research becomes an essential part of the internal transformation as they begin to understand what means to be a scholar and a research.

In order to encourage learning and research in universities in Nigeria, National Universities Commission (2007), in their benchmark minimum academic standards for undergraduate students’ programs in Nigerian universities and standard objectives, stated that there must be adequate library facilities to cater for the interest of all the programmes in the faculties. These include current journals, handbooks, textbooks, manuals, codes of practice, standards and specifications to mention but a few, in sufficient numbers as well as exposing undergraduate students of Nigerian universities to the rudiments of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for computer literacy and ability to live usefully in this ICT age.

Based on these objectives, The National Universities Commission (NUC) in February, 2008, subscribed to databases such as National Virtual Library, which has more than 25, 000 digitalized electronic local journals and an additional 10,000 foreign books, articles and journals, and EBSCO Host database services with over 75,000 electronic (digitalized) journals with over 25,000 of its collection in full text for free use for the universities community in the country for a stipulated time of 3 years. The aim is to ease the problem of inadequate books and journal materials for both students and teachers in the university system. The implication is that the databases subscribed to are very rich with Internet resources for academic use.

Use of Internet has opened new possibilities for students carrying out research work. It embraces active study skills, it also serves as a support to researchers that cannot purchase extensive collection of books and also serves as a learning zone where facts and information can be obtained in a wide variety of contexts. Traditionally, research project is a must for every university student in final year in the university. The reason for this is because it marks the culminating point in students’ completion of a degree programme in the university (Akogu, 2000).

Before the advent of the Internet, university students carried out research project using library printed and audio visual materials (Aina, 2004). But with the invention of the Internet, much more research is carried out using Internet resources by students and researchers (Adebiji, 2001). This is because there are useful academic resources available on the Internet, including hundreds of online journals and sites set up by universities and scholarly scientific organizations.

Through the Internet, one can access Internet resources such as bibliographic and full text databases, library catalogue on Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC), electronic mail, scholarly publications, newspapers, magazines, constitutions of various countries and electronic comments.Undergraduate students’ use of Internet resources depends partly on how universities are meeting their information needs by making Internet resources such as virtual library, e-books, e-journals and so on available and adequate, provision of basic Internet skills of surfing the web as well as creating awareness of the Internet resources.

Despite the numerous benefits Internet resources provide, it can be seen that most of the students experience difficulty of exploration, innovation and creativity when conducting research. The students express these difficulties through their inability to choose topics, write the background of their research topics, review literature of their research work and analyse their data (Nichols &Mellinger, 2007). Suresh (2010) observed that students who perceived problem identification, instrument development, advancing frontiers of knowledge for research work, literature review and statistical tool for hypotheses testing as being irrelevant Internet resources will not achieve a quality research project. One wonders if the students are making sufficient use of the Internet resources available in university libraries and Information Centers in North-Central Nigeria.

Statement of the Problem

Libraries, irrespective of the type are meant to meet the information needs of their users. In University libraries, there are numerous library users including undergraduate students who need information for project writing. The students need information for their studies and research, while lecturers need information for their teaching and research. However, the collection of any library including university libraries cannot hold everything the users need. As such, Internet connectivity was introduced into the university libraries to augment the printed resources for undergraduate students’ use for learning and project writing.

In this regard, Internet service provision has become a critical factor in the service of university libraries for undergraduate students’ research activities especially in developing countries including Nigeria. The university libraries specifically, acquire and organize both printed and electronic information sources for accessibility and use by undergraduate students. However, researchers attest that undergraduate students visit to university libraries and information centers for research is frustrating due to inadequate Internet resources and lack of basic Internet skills to exploit the resources. Essentially, there exist a poor level of use of electronic journals and online databases which are essential for learning and research. Moreover, researchers confirm that even the Internet speed is slow and Internet facilities are not up and running at all times to meet undergraduate students’ time to browse the Internet.

The inability of undergraduate students to use the available Internet resources and the difficulties undergraduate students in universities in the North-Central Nigeria go through when writing research project as affirmed by researchers is worrisome and if not checked, the consequences in the future may be inconceivable. Therefore, the study investigated whether undergraduate students use Internet resources as required for their research project writing.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to investigate the use undergraduate students make of the Internet resources for research project in universities in North-Central Nigeria. Specifically the study:

1.                  found the available Internet resources in universities in the North-Central Nigeria;

2.                  determined the extent of use of Internet resources by undergraduate students for research projects;

3.                  ascertained basic Internet skills possessed by undergraduate students for utilization of Internet resources for research projects;

4.                  found out how undergraduate students perceive Internet resources use on research project;

5.                  found out challenges hindering undergraduate students from using the Internet resources in research projects and

6.                  found out the strategies needed for the enhancement of Internet resources usage for undergraduate students’ research projects.

Research Questions

The following questions were asked to guide the study:

1.       What are the available Internet resources in the universities in the North-Central Nigeria?

2.      What is the extent of use of Internet resources by undergraduate students for research projects in the North-Central Nigeria?

3.      What are the basic Internet skills possessed by the undergraduate students for use of Internet resources for research projects?

4.      How do the undergraduate students perceive Internet resources use on research project?

5.      What are the challenges of using Internet resources for research project by the undergraduate students?

6.      What are the strategies needed to promoteuse of Internet resources for research projects by undergraduate students in universities in North-Central Nigeria?

Hypotheses

The following null hypotheses formulated for this study are tested at 0.05 level of significance.

HO1     There is no significant difference in availability of Internet resources for research projects between undergraduate students in the Faculty of Science and those in the Faculty of Social Sciences.

HO2    There is no significant difference in the extent of use of Internet resources for research projects between undergraduate students in the Faculty of Science and those in the Faculty of Social Sciences.

Significance of the Study

This study is expected to be of benefit to undergraduate students, librarians, researchers and the university management in the following ways.

The study will make the undergraduate students aware of the use of Internet resources for their assignments, term papers and research projects by effective user education that the study has recommended. They will use Internet resources for educating themselves for even other things as well as exploring deeper into their study areas. Knowledge acquired through such exploration will enable them to be more innovative and creative. With the knowledge of Internet resources, the students will be able to access and use adequate and current literature that will enhance quality project writing.

Consequently, the study will benefit the librarians by helping them to see the need of encouraging the university management of the mother institutions of their libraries to provide and preserve Internet resources for information dissemination to all library users. Therefore, the librarians will identify the necessary Internet resources need and make requisition for their provision. The librarians will now be better equipped with knowledge capacities to serve their community better as they will endeavor to have sufficient Internet resources available for undergraduate students research projects.

In addition, the study will benefit the university management by making the management aware of the necessary Internet resources that they could provide funds for its provision. With the provision of adequate Internet resources, it will enhance the quality of research projects of undergraduate students and their general academic performance.

Scope of the Study

This study covered Benue, Kogi, and Nassarawa States of North-Central Geo-Political Zone of Nigeria. It examined undergraduate students’ use of Internet resources for research projects in universities. The dimensions of the topic covered availability  of Internet resources in universities in the North-Central Nigeria, the extent of use of Internet resources by undergraduate students for research projects, basic Internet skills possessed by undergraduate students for utilization of Internet resources for research projects, undergraduate students’ perception of Internet resources use on research project, problems hindering undergraduate students from using the Internet resources in research projects and the strategies needed for the enhancement of  Internet resources use for undergraduate students research projects.





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