By Prof Dr Noor Ismawati Jaafar
Online technology is the usage of the Internet in accessing information and communication to perform work-related and personal tasks. As Internet technology continues to grow exponentially, individuals must become more and more adaptable to keeping up with the constant changes of normal routines within the society, especially when we face situations where face-to-face communication is minimised and online communication takes over almost all regular platforms.
The youth are not spared from this new communication culture. As a result, more online technology skills are required by youth to adapt themselves with the latest trends. The use of online meeting applications such as Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and Zoom are unavoidable. This is in addition to the existing instant messaging applications such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Instagram and Yahoo Messenger. Thus, online technology adaptability can be used to explain the ability to learn and comprehend Internet technology with confidence and without fear to perform work and personal tasks.
It is interesting to note that there is an abundance of studies done on technology usage but very few of these focused on adaptability due to global health crises. In a recent online survey conducted among 392 Malaysian university students during the movement control order (MCO) period, some interesting findings emerged. Out of the 392 respondents, the majority of were aged between 18 and 22 years (68.6%) followed by those between 23 and 27 years of age (21.4%). They were mostly females (65.3%) as opposed to males (34.7%). The majority of them were Malays (66.3%) followed by Chinese (20.9%), and they were at degree level of their studies (84.9%). Most of the respondents came from the Social Sciences discipline (94.4%) and were single individuals (90.8%). The following Table 1 summarises the demographic profile of the students:
The online survey has revealed some findings which are important for policy makers and the academic fraternity to understand the role that online technology has played in preparing our youth to be future-proof while aligning to the national education aspiration.
The usage of online technology tools by the university students in adapting to online learning environment has definitely increased. Students used these tools for variety of activities. From Figure 1, it was found that the majority of the respondents used the online technology tools to attend online learning classes (93.1%) followed by searching of notes/contents/ideas (69.1%), attending online presentations (66.3%), sharing of notes/contents/ideas (63.5%) and doing some research activities (60.5%). We can see that students have begun to attune themselves to attending online classes while beginning to familiarise themselves with the other activities. The success of online learning is compounded by many other infrastructural issues that require the policy makers to address at the national level. Nevertheless, we can say our youth are adapting to the online communication delivery mode well and acknowledge its importance in complementing traditional classroom learning.
From Figure 2, it was found that most of these students spend at least more than five hours a day (69.1%) and, from Figure 3, the majority of them use them use online technology tools on a daily basis (97.2%). We can see that the usage of online technology tools among youth is very high, which exceeded the 2021 world average Internet usage i.e. 145 minutes per day.
Nonetheless, the high usage of online technologies has both advantages and disadvantages. The high usage is best explained with student’s familiarity stage in adapting to new environment and self-upskilling sessions which students need to undergo at the initial stage of online learning. While this could also indicate that students preferred to spend their time online rather than interacting with real people offline. The
daily frequency of usage further supports that there is a coping mechanism among students to ensure that they are not left behind in difficult situations. However, the issue of point of access to online technology tools demands more holistic solutions to be addressed at the national level in order for youth to be online technologically adaptable.
Figure 4 shows the online tools platform used by the respondents in adapting to online learning. Google Meet is widely used (82.4%), followed by Instant Messaging (80.1%), MS Teams (77.0%) while the least one is the news portal platform (16.6%). In terms of individual adaptability level towards online technology (Figure 5), the majority of the students reported a high level of adaptability (53.6%). We can see from the results that students are already using a few online technology tools such as Google Meet and MS Teams in their course of learning in absence of physical classes at universities.
There are also other common tools which can be used to facilitate online learning such as YouTube and search engines. The choice of platforms depends on the familiarity, perceived ease of use, perceived usefulness, peer influence and trust level among the students. These tools could compliment the method of traditional courses online delivery rather than replacing them.
Having alternative method in teaching delivery could assist the academics to enhance their skills and become adept to latest technology trends while at the same time inculcating long-life learning culture. Thus, it is also unsurprising that the students demonstrated a high level of online technologies adaptability during the pandemic. This further supports the notion that our youth are able to adapt to any changes in the surroundings and are prepared to overcome technology challenges.
In conclusion, we could see how youth are coping with the pandemic aftermath. With adequate support and little assistance of computer access, students are quickly adapting to the new online learning environment. Although there is still a bigger concern on equity of access which needs immediate policy makers’ interventions, these youth are ready to become adaptable to a technologically inflicted environment and, at the same time, embrace the Internet wave and become technologically resilient.
Dr Noor Ismawati Jaafar is a Professor at the Department of Operations and Management Information Systems, Faculty of Business and Accountancy, Universiti Malaya (UM) in Kuala Lumpur.