This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Improvement of Computer Performance and Self-Efficacy Among Seniors Citizens Through Training and Virtual Classrooms




Clanton, Kelley

Type of Degree



Computer Science


Senior citizens represent the fastest growing demographic worldwide. As indicated in the Year 2000 U.S. census, there are 35 million people 65 years old or older in the United States, and by 2030, it is estimated that there will be about 70 million older adults in the U.S. alone (Chadwick-Dias, McNulty, Tullis, 2000). With computers being used both in the workplace and in homes and the older population growing rapidly, it is important that senior adults be instructed on what computer technology can do for them. Using a computer requires cognitive skills that may be challenging for older adults, and decrements in working memory could put older adults at a disadvantage when performing computer-interactive tasks. To aid in the computer instruction of senior citizens, some workshops have been conducted to introduce seniors to personal productivity software, (e.g. Microsoft Office Suite), Email, Internet basics, and visual programming with ALICE 3D. The details and results of these workshops are presented. However, the primary focus of this thesis is the creation and utilization of a virtual learning center within the virtual world of Second Life to increase older adults’ knowledge of and performance with computer technology. Workshops have been conducted to introduce seniors to Second Life as well as our learning center, and the results from these workshops are discussed. In the final section, the conclusions and lessons learned from this work are presented as well as plans for future educational opportunities for senior adults. Three hypotheses were tested in this study: older adult-centered computer training would yield better performance for older adults; seniors who participate in computer training show a positive change in attitudes towards computers and the Internet, and a gain in confidence in their own proficiency with technology; and senior adults’ task performance would improve from receiving virtual computer training. Age-related issues were evident in training time, task completion time, and usability ratings in that the older participants had fairly long training and task completion times and low performance on certain tasks. However, their self-efficacy and usability were improved.