The Digital Divide: How Low-Literate Freshman Search for Information

  • Noël T. AltonEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 1217)


Prior research with low literate internet users has shown a tendency to perform fewer searches and do not ‘fact check’ the information they found, often being satisfied with their initial findings. Research was conducted to understand how degree seeking low literate and medium to high literate adults search for information online. Ten low literate and ten medium to high literate degree seeking freshman and five non-degree seeking low literate participants were recruited to conduct three search tasks designed to mimic a low-level college science task. Low literate degree seeking participants were found to have search habits similar to the degree seeking medium to high literate participants. Degree seeking participants performed more searches and accessed more sites for each task than the non-degree seeking participants. Non-degree seeking participants showed signs of task fatigue, while degree seeking participants did not show a similar fatigue. Results indicate degree seeking adults have higher levels of digital literacy than non-degree seeking adults.


Literacy Digital literacy Search Low literacy Education 


  1. 1.
    Wood, W.C.: Literacy and the Entry-Level Workforce: The Role of Literacy and Policy in Labor Market Success. Employment Policies Institute, Washington DC (2010)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Kutner, M., Greenberg, E., Jin, Y., Boyle, B., Hsu, Y., Dunleavy, E.: Literacy in everyday life: results from the 2003 National Assessment of Adults Literacy (NCES 2007-480). U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics (2007)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Goodman, M., Finnegan, R., Mohadjer, L., Krenzke, T., Hogan, J.: Literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in technology-rich environments among U.S. adults: results from the program for the international assessment of adult competencies 2012: first look (NCES 2014-008). U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics (2013).
  4. 4.
    U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics, Statistics Canada and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), PIAAC 2012/2014 and PIAAC 2017 Literacy, Numeracy, and Problem Solving TRE AssessmentsGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Fry, R.: Early benchmarks show ‘Post-Millennials’ on track to be most diverse. Best-Educated Generation Yet, 15 September 2018.
  6. 6.
    Shatto, B., Erwin, K.: Moving on From Milliennials: Preparing for Generation Z. J. Continuing Educ. Nurs. 23, 253–254 (2016)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Buzzetto-Hollywood, N., Alade, A.: An examination of gen Z learners attending a minority university. Interdisc. J. E-Skills Lifelong Learn. pp. 41–52 (2018)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Dixon, J.: First impressions: LJ’s first year experience survey. Library Journal.
  9. 9.
    Buzzetto-Hollywood, N., Elobeid, M., Elobaid, M.: Assessing and addressing the digital literacy skills of first generation college students. In: The Annual Conference on Teaching Learning and Assessment, Philadelphia, PA (2017)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Buzzetto-Hollywood, N.: Establishing an institutional commitment to the digital and information literacy of under-served college students. In: The Annual Conference on Teaching Learning and Assessment, pp. 15–26, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA (2017)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Geck, C.: The generation Z connection: teaching information literacy to the newest net generation. Teach. Librarian 33, 19–23 (2006)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    van Deursen, A.J.A.M., van Dijk, J.A.G.M.: Modeling traditional literacy, internet skills and internet usage: an empirical study. Interact. Comput. 28, 13–26 (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Summers, K., Summers, M.: Reading and navigational strategies of web users with lower literacy skills. In: Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, vol. 42 (2005)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Kodagoda, N., Wong, B.L., Kahan, N.: Identifying information seeking behaviours of low and high literacy users: combined cognitive task analysis. In: Proceedings of NDM9, the 9th International Conference on Naturalistic Decision Making, London, pp. 347–354 (2009)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Program DevelopmentWestern Governors UniversitySalt Lake CityUSA

Personalised recommendations