E-learning and individual characteristics: The role of computer anxiety and communication apprehension

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Research has examined the role of technology in instruction and corporate training for over three decades. Advances in communication and computing technologies, coupled with the wide availability of the Internet, have spurred additional interest in technology-mediated and distance education programs. Yet, it is important to realize that technology can both enhance and hinder education. In this paper, we report the results of a field study conducted to understand how a particular set of individual characteristics, anxiety associated with computers and apprehension of oral and written communications, can lead to anxiety of using computers to communicate (anxiety associated with the use of email) and how this resulting anxiety might influence learning in a technology-mediated environment. Our results indicate that these anxieties are significant, influential factors in an individual's e-Learning experience. Anxiety with computers and apprehension of oral communication, with email familiarity explained 68% of the variance in the resulting anxiety associated with the use of email. This email anxiety and computer familiarity accounted for 22% of the variance in email use. Email use and age accounted for 11% of the variance in learner performance. These results highlight the relevance of individual-level anxiety characteristics and their importance in evaluating e-Learning programs. Implications for practice and directions for future research are discussed.

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Journal of Computer Information Systems