Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Leroy Wolins

Second Advisor

Wilbur L. Layton


Studies of people learning to use word processing equipment typically treat the computer users as a homogeneous group. Within that context, the present study undertook to examine the role of two individual differences factors, namely learning preferences and attitudes toward computers. In addition, the effectiveness of two training techniques was compared: a guided exploration versus an instruction-based technique;Seventy-five computer-naive undergraduate students were randomly assigned to two experimental conditions. Each filled out a self-report inventory assessing his/her previous experience with computers, learning preferences, and computer attitudes. Then, individually they worked through the training materials for two periods, lasting 65 and 35 minutes, respectively. Half of the trainees used a commercial onscreen tutorial. The rest were guided on how to explore the word processor, focusing on the built-in onscreen Help as a learning aid. Finally, performance and knowledge tests were administered as learning outcome measures;Hypotheses were tested using multivariate and univariate analyses of covariance, with computer experience variables serving as covariates. In line with previous findings, guided exploration was more effective than the instruction-based technique. This method apparently better suits the active orientation of novice computer users. Matching training techniques to learning preferences led to higher post-training performance: People assigned to their preferred method outperformed those using their nonpreferred method. Attitudes toward computers had no impact on learning outcomes. Results for the knowledge test as a single dependent variable were nonsignificant;Overall, the findings encourage deeper consideration of individual differences and motivational factors in the research and development of software application systems. Implications of the results are discussed, as well as suggestions for future research.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Amiram Raban



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

120 pages