Student use of networked computer workstations: a microeconomic view

Greenwood, Anthony Richard (2001) Student use of networked computer workstations: a microeconomic view. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This study investigates an instance of a service which attempts to meet significantly varying demand in an environment where the service is provided free at the point of delivery. This is a not unconimon scenario within the public sector. The example chosen is that of the computer network at the University of Central Lancashire. This example has the advantages to the author of being based in his own institution, and until 1991 he was involved in the initial development of the system.
The investigation is founded on three theoretical research areas: the working methods and findings of previous authors are examined by literature review; microeconomic theory is deployed by explaining the operation of relevant models and their applicability to the study; the wider educational issues are explored through further literature review, guided by the development of a reference model.
The literature search and review reported in chapter 3 focuses on the working methods and findings used by previous authors researching into student use of networked computer workstations in higher education.
It is found that authors have used a variety of techniques. In many cases, usage data - collected from system logs, diaries or questionnaires - is compared with attitudinal or demographic data in order to account for differing patterns of use. A number of authors, however, express disquiet at an apparent lack of theoretical underpinning in the relevant literature.
In an effort to make a contribution towards addressing this, chapter 4 examines the possible role of microeconomics. It reviews two microeconomic approaches: the 'characteristics approach' to consumer demand normally attributed to K.J. Lancaster, and then the 'club goods' world of J.M. Buchanan. Both sections review the literature citing the relevant work and hence explain the theories together with their possible application in the student use of networked computer workstations. Both models are found to be relevant and helpful in providing a basis and scope for the further literature survey in chapterS, and the empirical work with usage and demographic data reported in chapters 6 and 7.
In conclusion, chapter 8 shows that this thesis does provide a contribution in supporting the information gathering phase of developing a new system. It could, for example, be used directly as 'scaffolding' in the design of instruments for the elicitation of user requirements and in the setting of agendas for discussing the results. Chapter 8 also shows that this thesis gives rise to a number of further opportunities for focused research.

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