CEC Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2009

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems (DISS)

Department

Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences

Advisor

Yair Levy

Committee Member

Stephen Terrell

Committee Member

Laurie P. Dringus

Abstract

Prior studies have shown that students who are the first in their families to attend college fail to persist in college more so than their continuing-generation (CG) counterparts do. Prior research on this phenomenon has helped to identify various factors that contribute to the lower college persistence of first-generation (FG) students. For example, social capital has been identified as a factor that improves student persistence in college. Prior studies have shown that FG students tend to enter college with lower social capital than their CG student counterparts do. Additionally, while in school, FG students tend not to engage in behaviors that can help them in the creation of social capital. There has been growing research on how Internet communication technologies (ICTs) may be used as a resource in the creation of social capital. Specifically, there have been several studies that have examined how the Internet has provided opportunities for the creation of both bonding (relationships with persons inside one's cultural network, like family and close friends) and bridging (persons outside one's cultural network) forms of social capital.

This study used a non-experimental design approach to compare the differences in technology-enabled bonding (TEBD) and technology-enabled bridging (TEBR) behaviors of FG and CG students. This study also used a predictive design approach aimed at predicting the persistence in college of first-year students based on the contributions of TEBD and TEBR behaviors, as well as socioeconomic status (SES) and high school grade point average (GPA). Finally, this study sought to develop and validate an instrument that could reliably measure the TEBD and TEBR behaviors of college students for use in future studies.

A sample of 316 full-time first- to second-year students at a small, private, college in the Midwestern United States were surveyed on the dimensions of their TEBD (emotional support, access to resources, and sociability behavior) and TEBR (involvement in campus activities, contact with others unlike themselves, sociability behaviors, and academic activities) behaviors, as well as three dimensions of SES (parental education, parental income, and parental occupations) and high school GPA. Findings of this study showed there was no significant difference in the TEBD and TEBR behaviors of FG and CG students, which in itself is significant. Additionally, this study found high school GPA and one dimension of SES (parental income) to be positive predictors of student persistence in college. This study also found one dimension of TEBD (access to resources), one dimension of TEBR (contact with others unlike themselves), and one dimension of SES (parental occupation), to be negative predictors of student persistence in college.

This study made the following three important contributions: 1) the development of an instrument for measuring TEBD and TEBR behaviors of college students; 2) an investigation of the differences in TEBD and TEBR behaviors of FG and CG students; and, 3) an investigation of key constructs that contribute to student persistence from their first-to-second year of college.

Recommendations for future research were made which included extending this research to 1) include other types of technology communication devices, such as cell phones; 2) examine the contributions of TEBD and TEBR to persistence in college between semesters; 3) improve the methodology for collecting survey data; and 4) investigate if there are significant differences between FG and CG students on the amount of time spent online engaged in social and academic activities, as well as examine if time spent online is a predictor of student persistence in college.

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