| Abstract|| |
Background: The Riyadh Colleges of Dentistry and Pharmacy (RCSDP) is in the process of implementing a total computer based information system to improve the delivery of curricula, clinical teaching and administration. In order to measure the level of acceptance and the degree of training that would be required, a survey was undertaken to investigate the current knowledge and skills of students with respect to information communication technology (ICT).
Materials and Methods: Data collection took place by means of a questionnaire which included items on computer access, computer skills and training, computer activities used for study at college, internet access and activities involving the internet and dentistry. Results: An overall response rate of 81.8% (226 out of 276) was obtained. Besides having free and unlimited access to computers at the college, 82.7% of the students had access to computers at home also and 93% owned their own laptop. About 63.7% students gained their knowledge about computers from personal study and experience. Academic uses of the computer were mainly by PowerPoint programs (61%) and 91% had access to Internet. Around 85% preferred lectures to be available on the college website. Google was the most commonly used search engine (60%), and only 10% accessed PubMed or other medical and dental sites for academic purposes.
Conclusion: It can thus be concluded that students of RCSDP had adequate access to substantial ICT resources and demonstrated an excellent attitude towards the computer and Internet technology. However, the educational use of ICT among these students has great scope for improvement.
Keywords: Computer, dental students, internet
|How to cite this article:|
Rahman G. Use of computers among students of dental college in Saudi Arabia. J Educ Ethics Dent 2011;1:12-7
| Introduction|| |
The rapid development in computer technology and the wide availability of personal computers together with the Internet, email, and various medical literature retrieval applications have changed both, the study and the practice environments in dentistry, as in other disciplines.  Computer-assisted learning (CAL) in dental education is rapidly increasing.  Now-a-day, there is general awareness of the potential benefit of CAL all over the world, including the developing countries, and many faculties recognize the need to exploit the capacities of information communication technology (ICT) to enhance their educational programs. Observations on student's competence with ICT are few, and are carried out mostly in countries where informatics is well developed.  There have been very few studies on ICT in education involving dental schools in the Middle East.  Hence, this study was undertaken to investigate the current knowledge and skills of undergraduate dental and dental hygiene male and female students of the Riyadh Colleges of Dentistry and Pharmacy (RCSDP), with respect to information communication technology (ICT).
| Materials and Methods|| |
The dentistry course at Riyadh Colleges of Dentistry and Pharmacy is completed in six years, and the dental hygiene course is completed in four years. The dental students of fifth year are the senior most batch at the Riyadh Colleges of Dentistry and Pharmacy, and the dental hygiene students study up to the fourth year. The sample in this study consisted of male and female students from the third, fourth and fifth year of undergraduate dentistry course, and third and fourth year of dental hygiene course, of Riyadh Colleges of Dentistry and Pharmacy. Each batch of undergraduate dentistry course consists of approximately 100-120 students out of which 50 students were randomly selected. Also, the students of dental hygiene course were lesser than 15 in each batch, hence all the students were selected for the study. To conduct the study, we used a questionnaire derived from previous surveys. ,, The questionnaire (questions and results are shown in [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3] and [Table 4] in appendixhttp://www.jdentaled.org/cgi/content/full/69/3/387 - T6) consisted of thirty three multiple choice questions in English language (with only questions translated in Arabic). The questionnaire was circulated among the other faculty to obtain comments on its applicability. The items in the questionnaire were related to computer access, computer skills and training, computer activities used for study at college,internet access and activities involving the internet and dentistry. Estimated time to complete the questionnaire was ten minutes.
Data collection took place at the end of the second semester of the academic year 2007-08. A list of students was procured from the registration office of the college, and fifty student roll numbers without their name identification were randomly selected for the study from male and female students from the third, fourth and fifth year of undergraduate dentistry course; and, all the students of third and fourth year of dental hygiene course of Riyadh Colleges of Dentistry and Pharmacy were included. The first and second year students were excluded from the study, as they were not yet involved in the dental courses, and contacting them was difficult since their course is taught by the faculty of basic sciences.
Participation in this study was voluntary, and all participants remained anonymous. Information on gender, age, and year of study was requested in the questionnaire. The questionnaire and its administration were approved by the Dean of the Riyadh Colleges of Dentistry and Pharmacy, Saudi Arabia. The questionnaires were distributed in appropriate lectures and retrieved immediately after completion. The data was processed and analyzed by means of the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS PC Version 15.0).
| Results|| |
An overall response rate of 81.8 percent (226 out of 276) was obtained. Out of 226 respondents, 50.4 percent (114) were males and 49.5 percent (112) females. The following sections summarize the student's responses to the questionnaire in relation to the following categories: computer access, computer skills and training, use of computer for academic purposes, Internet access, and use of the Internet for the study of dentistry (questions and results are shown in [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3] and [Table 4] in appendixhttp://www.jdentaled.org/cgi/content/full/69/3/387 - T6).
As shown in [Table 1], besides having free and unlimited access to computers at the college, 83 percent of the students had access to computers at home also, and 93 percent owned laptops.
Computer skills and training
As shown in [Table 2], about 78.7 percent of the students were using computers since more than two years. Approximately 66 percent students utilized their computers everyday for their studies both at home and college. Majority of the students, about 63.7 percent gained their knowledge about computers from personal study and experience, and the remaining 36.3 percent acquired their knowledge from a special computer course. When asked about their competence in computer skills, around half (51.3 percent)of the students reported that they were good in their computer skills; 35.8 percent students felt they had excellent computer skills; and, the rest felt that they needed improvement.
Use of computer for academic purposes
As shown in [Table 3], students reported that their primary academic use of computer was through PowerPoint programs (61 percent) and use of Internet (19.4 percent).
As shown in [Table 4], around 77 percent of the students had access to Internet at home. Most students were satisfied with their access to the Internet. Almost all students had their own personal email addresses configured (98.6 percent). Out of these, 67 percent had it since more than 5 years; and, 46 percent of the students checked their email every day, and 44 percent checked their mail at least once or twice a week. When asked about their Internet usage, 82 percent of the students mentioned that they were comfortable with internet use and experienced no problems. Out of the other 18 percent who perceived barriers to use of the internet, one fourth students (26.8 percent) reported it to be as time consuming, especially when the network is busy, and other few students (20 percent) were concerned about virus and malware. Some students (17 percent) accepted heir level of confidence to be the main hindrance in using the internet. Small percentage of students (10 percent) felt cost as a hindering factor to their internet and computer usage, while the least frequently identified barrier (5 percent), was non availability of computers. In terms of questions related to their perceived level of accuracy of information on the internet, 57 percent felt that the information was accurate, while the remaining 43% felt otherwise and were less confident about the information accuracy.
Activities involving the internet and dentistry
The majority of students (85 percent) were in favour of the idea of placing undergraduate lectures on the college website. Out of them, three fourth of students (86 percent) did not expect that this would influence their attendance at lectures, while 14 percent felt that this would stop them from going to the lectures. Approximately three fourth (76%) of the students preferred a paper type examination pattern over online exam pattern, although 60% of them had a previous experience with online examinations. Google was the most commonly used search engine (60 percent) for accessing dental information. Approximately quarter (26 percent) of the students used hotmail, and only few students (10%) accessed PubMed or other medical and dental sites for academic purposes.
| Discussion|| |
Several studies have reported about the potential use of computers, information technology (IT) and Internet in dental curriculum as an educational tool. [1-7] This study surveyed the current knowledge and skills of dental students at Riyadh Colleges of Dentistry and Pharmacy (RCSDP) in use of information and communications technology (ICT). Analyzing IT skills is especially difficult when comparing results over a span of years: what would be seen as a trivial computer task today may have required advanced knowledge a few years ago. The overall impression of the present study is that dental students at Riyadh Colleges of Dentistry and Pharmacy seem to have comparable computer literacy skills, but better availability of computers and the internet than of that of dental students in other countries. This is because all students of Riyadh Colleges have free and unlimited computer access. More than three fourth (83 percent) of the students reported that they had access to computers at home. This finding is consistent with data found in an earlier study conducted in a European dental school where 72 percent of the students had access to computers at home. ,, In a more recent study carried out on dental students in the University of Jordan, 74% had access to computer at home. In a similar study carried out on students taking higher education in a university of Pakistan, 73% of the students had access to computers at home, indicating the results to be again along similar lines. , These results were not comparable to data obtained from a study carried out on dental undergraduate students at a private dental institution in India, where approximately only 25% of the students had access to computers at home. 
A small proportion (11 percent) of RCSDP students in the present study did not use a computer regularly. This is comparable to the 5 percent for Bristol, 20 percent for Manchester, and 22 percent for Newcastle students cited in a study conducted in the United Kingdom.  More recent studies show similar results in a higher education university in Pakistan where 10% of the students did not use a computer regularly.  Data obtained from studies carried out on dental students in the University of Jordan showed that 44% of students did not use computer regularly, which is comparable to the results obtained from studies on dental undergraduate students at a private dental institution in India, where 33% students did not use the computer regularly. , Three-fourth (78.7 percent) of the students in our study said they had been using a computer for more than three years, which was not comparable to results obtained for similar study on students in Manchester, Bristol and Newcastle of United Kingdom, where 20%, 14% and fifty -seven% students reported the use of computers for more than three years, respectively. This may be attributed to the fact that the study in these three dental schools in the United Kingdom were carried out more than a decade ago, and the use of CAL has increased in recent times.  A more recent study carried out on dental students in the University of Jordan reported that 33% of the students were using a computer for more than three years, and these results were comparable to the results obtained from the study on students in a private dental institution in India where 35% dental undergraduate students reported the use of computers since more than three years. , The reasonably higher computer usage rate since a longer period of time in our study could be due to better access to computer facilities among the students of RCSDP.
Dental schools are managing IT in vastly different ways. The inequality regarding the educational use of computers among these various schools may explain the difference. RCSDP students now enter the college with basic computer knowledge since all primary and secondary schools provide teaching in basic computer skills that includes introduction to computers, Windows, Microsoft Office, and the Internet. Even though the dental school provides computer education as part of the curriculum, competent students have acquired their IT skills through personal study and experience. More than two-third of students (63.7%) gained their IT skills through personal study and experience and one-third through special computer courses. Majority of the students' (73%) perceived the IT training they received as good. It is possible that courses in computer and communication skills offered by the RCSDP to its students as part of their first-year curriculum meets the needs to achieve the required computer related work during their clinical years. This finding was contradictory to results achieved in a previous study in which the authors attributed that some of the students were not fully aware of the content of their curriculum, or that other students considered that their demands were not being met by the computer courses offered.  Although, more emphasis could be placed on the management of advanced operating systems in the dental undergraduate curriculum, at RCSDP the student's educational use of computers was limited to the Internet, word processing, multimedia, presentations, Medline search, and data management. In an era of self-directed learning, the time may be ripe to start moving toward computer-assisted learning (CAL) in dental education, beginning with an assessment of which applications should be taught or made available, and how to bring all students up to an acceptable level of competency in their use. Therefore, the development and sharing of learning material and educational tools for undergraduate dentistry should be a high priority for the dental schools. 
There have been substantial changes in dental education area over the past two decades. Many dental schools have moved towards problem-based learning approach. , Implementation of computer-supported collaborative learning has driven IT investments and implementation in some schools. , Hence, we believe that the value of available Internet resources and of electronic communication in supporting dental learning can no longer be denied. In the present study, approximately only half of the students (57%) reported that the information on the Internet was accurate. This may reflect a need for improvement in the quality of websites providing dental informatics. Perhaps, improved internet availability, improved connection speed, and the mandatory undergraduate teaching of computer facilities and dental informatics will increase the confidence in the relevance and accuracy of information relevant to dentistry on the internet by students. Almost all students who responded to this questionnaire used email. At present, the school of dentistry at RCSDP does not use email as a mandatory means of communication (versus using paper communication) among dental students or among faculty. Several universities around the world have successfully started using email as a mandatory communication method and the internet as a mandatory information and communication channel.  Around half of the students (54.4%) preferred their communication from college administration through emails; and, one-third (30%) desired to receive short messages (SMS) on their mobile phones.
One of the great advantages of online teaching is allowing students to focus more on managing their own learning and to work at their own time and pace. It also allows the use of sound, videos, and animation to communicate information.  The use of online handouts and lecture notes can be used to support lectures and enable more face-to-face contact with the lecturer through methods such as small group teaching.  However, the lack of communication with peers and instructors, the absence of evaluation, and the fact that courses appeared to be outdated were the most negative aspects encountered in web-based learning. One of the first steps that could successfully tackle this problem is to encourage the teaching staff to make available lectures and teaching materials on the web. , The students in this survey and others expressed enthusiasm for the idea of putting lectures and teaching materials on the web, and asserted that this would not stop them from attending lectures. 
| Conclusion|| |
The results of this study indicate that RCSDP students had access to substantial IT resources and demonstrated favourable attitude toward the computer and the internet, and reported levels of use that were similar to students in other nations. This comes as no surprise in the age of globalization where knowledge knows no boundaries. However, the educational use of ICT among RCSDP students has scope for improvement. It is our opinion that dental schools should make greater effort to utilize the advantages of this technology so that the quality of oral health education can be improved. Efforts should be made to invest in problem-solving and evidence-based dentistry, and to incorporate methods of information retrieval and management into the curriculum.
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Department of Dentistry and Dental Hygiene, Riyadh Colleges of Dentistry and Pharmacy
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
[Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]