This research will fill in a gap that was discovered in the literature review. There have been many, even in an academic setting, that have made comments regarding the effects of email on the student environment. However, there have been no significant studies to substantiate these claims. This study will fill in the existing gap in research and will examine the actual importance of email to the academic setting.
Chapter 2: Literature Review
The importance of technology in the academic setting was an accepted fact from the inception of the internet. However, there have been few academic studies that have attempted to quantify its impact on student lives and success. In order to understand the importance of email and its impact on students lives, one must examine several areas of academic research on the topic. It has been implied that self-esteem and a feeling of satisfaction play an important role in academic success. The connection between email use and a sense of satisfaction will be a part of this literature review.
The Importance of Email
Although there have been few studies that examined the impact of email on the student, there have been many statements made the suggest a connection between academics and the use of email. Pedroni (1996) suggested that email facilitates success and provides an environment that enhances personal attention, a sense of self-esteem, a feeling of competence, and positive attachment for school. Students use email to ask questions that they might not ask in class. They tend to ask questions more often as well. It is also suggested that students who never speak up in class, often speak frankly via email (Harris, 1997). These statements are an example of the opinions that exist regarding email and its impact on student lives. However, the literature review revealed no substantial evidence to support these claims.
Email and efficiency
Today's business world demands higher levels of efficiency and speed than in the past. Business demand and needs have increased with the advent of technology that could instantaneously transmit data and information to another person. With this increase in speed has come a need to be more productive. These increases in speed and need for greater efficiency have been mirrored in the academic setting. In academia, the demands on students have increased in proportion to demands in the workforce. Students must find a way to increase their productivity.
In order to meet this increasing demand, students have begun to rely on email as a more efficient means of communication. Efficiency is closely linked to productivity. Increased efficiency is typically associated with productivity increases and higher output. This is necessary in order to keep up with increasing academic demands.
Productivity in the academic setting is closely related to productivity in the workforce. Therefore, we can look to academic research on email and efficiency in the workforce as an area that is closely related to the current area of study. Hean, Singfat, & Xu (2004) found that email use improved the ability to interface with disciplines other than one's own. This study revealed that email improved the efficiency and effectiveness of communication among a research group of 49 participants. This could be useful in the academic setting, particularly as the student enters various departments to complete the various requirements for their degree.
Efficiency and productivity have become an important element in every day life. As increases in demand are placed on the student, they must develop an understanding of time management. Steve Pavlina suggests calculating the total time spent on a project, versus the time actually spent on the project to develop an efficiency rating. In order to increase efficiency, it is necessary to cut production time as well (Pavlina, 2000). Pavlina suggests cutting one's total number of hours spent on a project in order to increase their efficiency ratio. Delivering an assignment via email is one way to cut the total amount of time spent on a project. As opposed to hand delivery of a project, email cuts the time spent delivering a project significantly.
Not everyone agrees...
John Cauldwell, Great Britain's 26th richest man banned email from his office staff. He felt that this move would increase, not decrease productivity. He felt that the staff was beginning to spend too much time answering email that could be spent on more productive tasks. He estimated that banning email and reverting to face-to-face communication would save his company three hours, per person, per day and an estimated one million Pounds per day in saved time. The most significant aspect of this move is that there was not data to support it. It was based on conjecture, as is much of the information available on email and efficiency. Cauldwell claims that his efficiency increased "instantaneously" upon instituting the email ban, but this is only his opinion. This article highlights the need for quantitative research on efficiency and email.
One of the pitfalls of email that may affect student efficiency and productivity is the proliferation of unwanted emails and spam. If the objective of using technology is to improve efficiency, then one must consider the time spent deleting and opening spam and unwanted email in the equation as well. It may be that email increases efficiency in one area, but decreases email in another area (Marcotte, 2004). It is the net effect that we are most concerned about in this research study.
This research highlights several points that have not been considered in other research studies. For instance, email may increase student efficiency by speeding the delivery of assignments, but it also adds hours to the work day by bombarding the student with unwanted email. The time spent reading unwanted email is often not considered when one speaks about the efficiency of email. It appears that there are both positive and negative effects associated with email. However, the most prominent feature of this portion of the literature review is the surprising lack of academic studies on the subject. Much of the published work on this area is based on the opinion of the author, rather than hard evidence. The purpose of this study is to provide substantial evidence regarding the effects of email on student efficiency and productivity.
Managerial Efficiency vs. Overall Productivity
The studies found thus far in the literature review indicate a disparity in opinions regarding the efficiency of email vs. face-to-face communication. We also found that email has a pitfall, as far as overall productivity is concerned; time spent reading unwanted email. It appears that these opinions are expressing two different ideas that must be differentiated in order to untangle the email and efficiency problem.
The rapid transmission and submission of assignments is one aspect of the email equation. This could be considered "managerial efficiency." The definition of managerial efficiency refers to the rapid performance of overall tasks (Worthington & Lee, 2001). It is difficult to argue that email does not increase managerial efficiency. Managerial efficiency may refer to the speed with which one task, or a groups of tasks can be performed by an individual.
The term "productivity" differs from managerial efficiency as it refers to the combined effect of all of the activities of the job. One could have high managerial efficiency for one task and still have low overall productivity, especially if the one task were the exception rather than the norm. Productivity refers to the aggregate effect of the managerial efficiency of individual tasks. This is one of the points that was not addressed in the debate over whether email increased, or decreased productivity.
This is an important concept to discern for the purposes of this study. When one considered the aggregate effect of answering an increasing number of spam and other unwanted emails, it could be argued that email actually increases the workload on students. However, the scope of this study will only address one aspect of the email phenomenon. It will only be concerned with increased managerial efficiency in submitting assignments to teachers and receiving feedback on them. This study will focus on the feeling of increased efficiency, rather than asking students to do a quantitative study of their overall productivity.
Email Use in Other Fields
There has not been much academic attention focused on email and increased student efficiency. The few studies that were located were from the faculty perspective, rather than the student's perspective. However, there have been a significant number of studies on the impact of email on doctor/patient communication. The following will explore this research and its relationship to this research study.
Although the potential for rapid transmission of communication between doctors and patients is possible with email, the use of email for physician-patient communication has not been widely adopted (Patt, et al., 2003). This study found that doctors felt that email increased the efficiency of chronic disease management. This allowed doctors flexibility in responding to non-urgent issues. However, many physicians expressed difficulties with finding…
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