First-year nursing students’ digital literacy: A cross-sectional study

Alexis Harerimana, Sinegugu Evidence Duma, Ntombifikile Gloria Mtshali


Background: The digital world is rapidly changing, and so do the required digital skills. As physical devices and software are adapted to meet new possibilities and demands, individuals’ skills must adapt to technological advancement. Digital literacy is increasingly used in the public discourse, becoming a core requirement of students, academics, patients and healthcare professionals. Assessing nursing students’ digital literacy at the entry-level is vital to ascertain their abilities to use digital technologies. This study aimed to assess basic digital literacy among first-year nursing students at a selected university in South Africa.

Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted from 1st March 2019 to 31st May 2019 at a university in South Africa. The population consisted of 82 nursing students from the first-year students in the 4-year nursing programme. The convenience sampling technique was used to determine the participants of this study, and 76 respondents completed a structured questionnaire. Data were analysed descriptively using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS®) software (version 25) from the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM®). A reliability test of the instrument was conducted, and Cronbach Alpha was 0.85.

Results: The students’ digital literacy included: (i) basic computer skills — performing basic computer operations, MS Word and PowerPoint; (ii) internet skills — using e-mail, Moodle®, social media platforms, accessibility to the internet; and internet searches (iii) digital device usage — desktop, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Overall, the mean for internet skills was 3.61 (SD = ±0.62), 3.11 (SD = ±0.85) for computer skills, and 3.00 (SD = ±0.47) for digital device usage. Computer skills was positively correlated with internet skills (r = 0.278, p = .012) and computer skills corrected with digital device usage (r = 0.384, p < .001). The overall score for internet skills was higher in the female group than in males, with the mean of 4.00 (SD = ±0.62) and 3.61 (SD = ±0.54), respectively (t74 = -0.405, p = .019). Furthermore, the overall score for digital device usage was higher in the age group of 20 years and above with a mean of 3.19 (SD = ±0.38) than in the age group under 20 with a mean of 2.90 (SD = ±0.48), and those differences were statistically significant (t74 = -2.420, p = .018).

Conclusions: An adequate digital literacy at the entry-level of the nursing programme is a foundation and a critical factor to academic success and future use of technology in nursing education and practice. Having adequate digital literacy among nursing students would positively impact their ability to perform electronic documentation, communicate and collaborate, and search for information to support evidence-based practice.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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