Software literacy and student learning in the tertiary environment: PowerPoint and beyond

Elaine Khoo, Craig Hight, Bronwen Cowie, Rob Torrens, Lisabeth Ferrarelli


In this paper, we explore the relationship between student success in acquiring software literacy and students’ broader engagement and understanding of knowledge across different disciplines. We report on the first phase of a project that examines software literacies associated with Microsoft PowerPoint as a common software package encountered and used by most students at tertiary level. Student data was collected through an online survey and focus-group interviews. One hundred and seventy-nine first-year Engineering and Media Studies students from a New Zealand university responded to the survey. A majority of students considered themselves to be confident and comfortable in engaging with new technologies, had access to mobile-based technologies or laptops, and relied on this hardware and related software for electronic forms of communication and information access in their university courses. On the whole, students expressed a preference for informal strategies (including trial and error) when learning about PowerPoint, expected it to be used in their university coursework, and could identify its related affordances and constraints, and how those affected their learning. Despite their familiarity with PowerPoint, students fell short in their ability to critique the ways the software shaped their understanding of disciplinary knowledge. Implications are discussed in terms of university teaching, including the nature of support services.

Keywords:  ICT; software literacy; PowerPoint; presentation software; teaching and learning; university students


ICT; software literacy; PowerPoint; presentation software; teaching and learning; university studentswerPoint; tertiary

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Journal of Open Flexible and Distance Learningthe journal of the Flexible Learning Association of New Zealand (FLANZ).
ISSN (Print until 2010): 1179-7665 ISSN (Online): 1179-7673