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Help Needed For Research Project

The project is spearheaded by Dr. Arne Weigold, our very own German-to-English translator. You’ve likely read an article he translated if you regularly read our reviews. Arne’s a college professor at Notre Dame College of Ohio for his day job, where he conducts research on computer use, and his findings have been published in scientific journals. He’s developing a questionnaire to measure computer self-efficacy, or people’s belief that they know about and are able to work effectively with computers. This isn’t marketing research or for any company; nobody will make any money from it. It’s just so that researchers have a good way to measure computer self-efficacy.

Here’s where Tom’s Hardware comes in: Arne needs computer experts to help him identify things that people at different levels of computer knowledge would be expected to know and do, so who better to ask than you, our readers? Your answers would provide Arne with the basis for the computer self-efficacy scale questions. All you’d need to do to help is fill out a short six-question survey. Responses are completely voluntary and anonymous. (You don’t provide a name or email address).

Please note that you must be at least 18 years old to participate in this study.

If you’re interested in participating, please click here and follow the instructions.

You can also contact Arne here or via our comments if you have any questions.

Thank you so much!

Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.
  • leo2kp
    I think there need to be more categories. The gap between "advanced" and "expert" is too big, in my opinion. Or, there needs to be a level above "expert" that starts to get in to specializations such as network architects, hardware engineers, application development, etc. Also it's difficult to find a place for some pieces. I have friends that have no problem setting up a home network with a hardware firewall, network security, servers for streaming media, format HDDs and image PCs, but can't set up a RAID5 or 10 array or still need help picking PC components.
  • ojas
    Agree completely with leo2kp, I'm a noob when it comes to *nix systems, for example.
  • whint
    I agree with leo2kp about more categories needed in the study.

    I feel a basic understanding of at least a simple model of computer systems is important to everyone. input-processing-storage and output.

    I find the majority of the general public can't perform simple takes that I would expect a "Novice computer user" to do. For example: Backing up your files. Most novice consumers are unaware of the importance of data loss, they believe a spinning hard drive should last them over 5 years. In fact when I show them an internal image of a hard drive they instantly go "Oh, that thing has a lot of moving components, doesn't that mean they are prone to failure?" The simple fact that novice consumers do not understand the fundamentals of how a computer stores data is astounding.

    In my work, I have an extremely high volume of conversations across the country with individual consumers and businesses of varying computer knowledge and proficiency. I can without a doubt say that what I expect consumers to know/do is very frequently not what I see. Often I find myself educating others on principle ideas that were taught to me in elementary school no matter their skill level.

    The concept of this study fascinates me as I have spent my adult career teaching others concepts of technology. My educational conversations with others typically end in a cheerful and thought provoking interaction by both parties, and I assure you this is my view on the topic and I by no means wish to "put anyone down" when I mention the general public. This post is only meant to bring a realistic view on general consumer knowledge.

    I would love to see others' opinion and I'd like to see more information about this study.
  • aweigold
    Hello everybody!

    This is Arne, and first up: A BIG thank you to everybody who has participated already!

    The response has already been great! I certainly know my way around a computer (it's not like I would be working for Tom's Hardware otherwise :) ), but there are already so many things I would never have thought of in those answers. When I set out to do this project, I wanted to be the first one to base this kind of questionnaire on input from a group of actual experts, because I thought that it would make a huge difference in the variety and quality of the questions. It looks like this is even more the case than I thought!

    To those who have commented above (and those who wrote similar things in the comments section of the questionnaire): The previous literature has always just made the distinction between the three levels (novice, advanced, and expert). Based on your feedback, I am already thinking that this might not be enough, and another category might need to be added above expert. If you would like to comment further on what that one should include (and what to name it), feel free to put it in the survey again under the comments section (if you have already taken it, just take it again and only fill out that section), or you can email it to me.

    A number of people have already asked about seeing the results. I will ask Chris about that.

    Again, thank you all so very much for this!!!

  • jhansonxi
    @aweigold: I thought the three levels were adequate since they were "user" levels. Obviously there are other areas including tech and sysadmin but I assumed these were out of the scope of the survey.
  • davewolfgang
    I'm with jhansonxi - that I answered the survey as if it was the "users" level of knowledge. Yes, once you get to expert - 99% of the time it's someone that also works in the field. For that 4th level - I would call is "Professional" - someone who's "job" it is to do the stuff that the lower levels can't do, or need help doing.

    So you'd have - Novice - Advanced - Expert - Professional.

    But as a few above mentioned - there are some that are an expert is one "area" of tech/computers, but are a novice in other parts. We have our Web Master, who can crank out web code and even SQL code for some of our internal programs in super detail and quality, but has a hard time mapping/connecting a network printer that has a non-standard driver (older printer that doesn't have a default driver in 7).
  • ceh4702
    I don't think there is a clear definition of what ADHD is. All children are different and that is part of the problem. Stupid adults want all children to act the same and fit into a box. They do try our patience.