What Social Factors Affect Students’ Use of Online Registration: An Exploratory Study

What Social Factors Affect Students’ Use of Online Registration: An Exploratory Study

Xiaobing Cao, Ph.D., Institutional Researcher
Robert Brodnick, Ph.D., Director and Assistant Professor

Planning and Research
University of the Pacific
Association for Institutional Research 42nd Annual Forum
June, 2002 (Toronto, Canada)

Track 3: Institutional Management and Planning

Abstract

What Social Factors Affect Students’ Use of Online Registration: An Exploratory Study

This study investigated how social factors affect college students’ use of the online registration service that was recently offered in a private university in Northern California. During the first year, about 31% of the students who pre-registered their courses used the service. The results indicated that academic and demographic factors affected students’ use of the online service. For example, students from certain disciplines (e.g. Pharmacy and International Studies) and high income families were more likely to use the online service. It is interesting to notice that the results did not show a significant impact of gender on the use of online registration. Implications are presented for institutions considering alternative registration methods or the implementation of technological solutions to administrative processes.

What Social Factors Affect Students’ Use of Online Registration: An Exploratory Study

The current study focuses on how social factors affect students’ use of online registration. The online service was first offered at the university in spring 2001. Using online registration can be viewed as new technology adaptation. However, updated literature in students’ new technology adoption is rare. It is worthwhile to investigate how social factors affect college students in adapting the new technology. There are two objectives for this study: reviewing relevant literature of the online registration and examining the impacts of social factors on use of the online service. Review of Literature

According to the literature, online registration1 can be divided into three stages of development. The first stage is the 1970s. This is a “developing stage” in which some universities led higher education institutions to experience initial new technology application in administration (Michael, 1976; Chapman & Gambrell, 1976; Brown, 1979; Hengehold & Keim, 1975; Adams, 1974). During this stage, online registration underwent a period of experiments and testing. Online registration was beginning to be recognized for its operation in assisting university administration.

The second stage refers to the decade of the 1980s. During these years, online registration was widely used by universities across the country. New features in the registration process were added and more experience was summarized (Heard, 1987; Cook & Parker, 1983; Arnett & Posey, 1986; Lonabocker & Long, 1983; Lisker, 1987). This period can be viewed as the “stabilized stage.” Cook & Parker (1983) conducted a survey of online registration practices among 66 colleges and universities. They found that online registration had improved academic advising.

Online registration in the literature review refers to various methods through which a registration can be completed, such as, mainframe computer, telephone, and web.

New technology application had saved time for students, faculty and staff members (1987). Online registration has been clearly confirmed as “a successful approach” (Lonabocker & Long, 1983; Arnett & Posey, 1986).

The third stage includes the 1990s and beyond. This period can be viewed as the “enhancement stage.” There have been new ways of exploring online registration such as using web service (Swein, 1997), integration of internet technology into all phases of the education process (Thomas, Carswell & Price, 1998), and getting specific groups of students involved in online registration (Kelly, 1998). Thomas et al. pointed out that the integrative approach has been effective in university administration. The third stage indicates that online registration has been well developed, looking for new ways to enhance the new technology environment through new technology convergence.

Theoretical Framework & Research Questions

Social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986) helps explain how human behaviors are affected by both social factors (e.g. family income) and personal factors (e.g. selfconcepts). The theory suggests that different social characteristics of students affect how they adapt themselves into the new technology environment. Based on social cognitive theory, the current study is investigating how social variables affect students’ use of online registration. The following are the research questions. 1. To what extent do student academic variables impact the use of online registration? 2. To what extent do student demographic variables impact the use of online registration? 3. What are the effects of the academic and demographic variables on the use of online registration?
Methodology

The data were extracted from the university student information system. The dependent variable was the registration method (online vs. walk-in). The independent variables were in two parts: academic variables and demographic variables. The

Social Factors and Online Registration 5
University of the Pacific

academic variables included Major, Class, Grade, and Degree Level. The “major” was measured by the college or school a student majored in. The “class” described the students’ class level including freshmen, sophomore, junior, senior, and graduate. The “degree level” was measured by two categories: graduate level and undergraduate level. The “grade” was measured by the students’ cumulative GPA. The demographic variables included Gender, Age, Ethnicity, and Family Income. The “family income” was a two-category variable including families with income =$90,000. The data source was the adjusted gross income reported from FAFSA.

Results

To answer research question one, “To what extent do student academic variables impact the use of online registration?”, a descriptive analysis was conducted. The results showed that the students who used the online registration were more likely those who majored in pharmacy (39%) and international studies (37%). The students who did not use the online registration were more likely those who majored in music (13%). The Chi-square test shows that the relationship between the registration method and major was significant, χ2 (6, n=3024)= 43.8, p

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