Survey Indicates IT Instructors Value Proficiency in Workplace Computer Applications

Cengage Learning survey illustrates students’ high proficiency levels in social media technology vs. professional workplace computer applications

Cengage Learning, formerly Thomson Learning, one of the largest customized learning solutions providers in academic and career educational markets, today released the second annual technology survey results examining faculty views on students’ IT proficiency.

The Cengage Learning survey was conducted over a six-week period starting May 14. The survey pool included 797 faculty members, who teach IT courses at their respective institutions, and the majority of whom have been teaching for more than 10 years at four- or two-year colleges and universities.

According to the survey results, on the whole, IT instructors expect that more than half of their students will utilize IT skills in their careers after graduation. The majority of them consider students with working knowledge of basic workplace computer applications to be computer proficient. As most instructors recognize the importance of assuring their students’ proficiency prior to graduation, the majority of respected institutions are using various types of proficiency assessment programs.

Survey results revealed that many IT instructors recognize students’ high proficiency level with instant messaging, email, audio and visual file downloading, and web surfing, yet their limited proficiency level with spreadsheets, which is one of basic applications that IT instructors feel students should have working knowledge to be considered as computer proficient. Key findings of the survey include:

  • Nearly 60 percent of IT instructors consider working knowledge of basic application software such as word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, to be the definition of computer proficiency, a seven percent increase from last year’s survey.
  • While nearly 60 percent of IT instructors surveyed said their respective institutions have a technology requirement for all students, more than 64 percent of them said their respective institutions do not have a formalized way to determine students’ proficiency with computer applications.
  • Nearly 85 percent of IT instructors surveyed view students’ proficiency level with instant messaging, email, web surfing and audio and visual file downloading to be at a level of working knowledge or more advanced, and 6 percent of them feel students are so proficient that they could even teach their own class.
  • A large portion of IT instructors surveyed, 46 percent, view student proficiency levels as limited or “no proficiency” in dealing with spreadsheets. Nearly 68 percent of respondents view students’ proficiency level with database applications is limited or none.
  • The skills in which students are considered lacking the most include: database, spreadsheets, graphic design software, multimedia applications, web creation and web conferencing.

“These findings illustrate a critical issue we believe affects many colleges and universities across the country—the need to effectively assess students’ IT proficiency. This is not a skill set confined to particular major or career interest – it is a life skill. Therefore, IT skills are critical to both students and schools in the need to provide valuable IT assessment,” said Nicole Pinard, vice president, Course Technology, part of Cengage Learning, the market leader in computing education and provider of Skills Assessment Manager (SAM), the powerful assessment and training software designed for students to demonstrate skill mastery in the latest software applications.

If you are interested in seeing the complete results of the Cengage Learning’s Annual IT Proficiency Survey, or would like to schedule an interview Ms. Pinard, please contact Tomomi Melton at [email protected].

About Cengage Learning and Course Technology

Cengage Learning, formerly Thomson Learning, is a global leader in providing integrated information solutions to business and professional customers. Course Technology, part of Cengage Learning, is the worldwide leader in computing education, offering more than 1,600 print and innovative technology-based products for business and technology training. For more information, visit: or