Achieving Focus, Engagement, and Acceptance:
Three Phases of Adapting to Internet Use


Diane Nahl
Department of Computer and Information Science
Leon James
Department of Psychology
University of Hawaii


A group of 20 college seniors were enrolled in a seminar on "The Social Psychology of Learning Internet." They were all novices at telecommunications though the majority described themselves as comfortable at using a wordprocessor or searching the online library catalog. Students received no individual or group instruction but were directed to the computer lab where they had access to lab attendants for help with logon procedures. In actuality, they had to rely on independent trial and error experimentation and on the use of online Help on Internet and UNIX. Weekly two-hour class discussions were used to assign homework, hand in reports, share information, solve individual problems, build solidarity, and maintain a high level of motivation. Biweekly lab reports were required consisting of the self-witnessing notes students kept of each Internet session to which they scheduled themselves at the computer lab.

These formative journal entries left a copious trail of objective data on the affective and cognitive behaviors of novice end-users learning to navigate Internet over a three-month period. Content analysis of archived records showed (a), the importance of group facilitation and solidarity in overcoming initial bewilderment and affective resistance, quickly followed by acceptance and enthusiasm; and (b), a specification of the range of cognitive acquisition in a few weeks of experience regarding access, operation, navigation, and searching. A taxonomic inventory was derived from the leraner reports listing three levels of affective and cognitive acquisitions (skills and errors) making up the process of becoming a regular user of Internet.

I. The Social and Educational Setting

The setting for this study was an undergraduate seminar for psychology majors called "The Social Psychology of Learning Internet" which reflects our long term research interest in making inventories of feelings and thoughts while searching for information in the library (Nahl & Tenopir, 1995; Nahl-James & James, 1993) Early in 1995 a new opportunity presented itself when the University of Hawaii, for the first time, made universal access to UNIX available to every student. The affective aspect, along with the cognitive, once again turned up as a major issue with students when they are engaged in information seeking and processing (Kuhlthau, 1993; Nahl & Tenopir, 1995). Methodology
Students were required to write a biweekly self-witnessing lab report documenting their Internet activities. Students readily accept the idea that "being a witness to yourself" is an important method for understanding oneself. They see the truth in the argument that "You are the only witness to your thoughts and feelings during some activity. Therefore there is no other way of obtaining this data." They thus oriented themselves in advance to the task of playing two roles: performer and observer. Students have no difficulty accepting the idea that their self-observations should cover three domains: (A) affective, that is, their feelings, impulses, emotions, attitudes, motives, intentions, goals, wishes, interests, etc.; (C) cognitive, that is, their thoughts, inferences, reasonings, plans, representations, meanings, etc.; (S) sensorimotor, that is, their perceptions and motor acts. These three domains are historically well established in the educational curriculum so that this kind of structured self-witnessing can, I believe, readily be adopted by students in general.

After years of using this approach with students, we have discovered that they respond best to this experience when it is made generational. That is, they are instructed to write "for future students who will be reading the Generational Curriculum." This is a collection of student self-witnessing reports on many topics that have accumulated over past semesters and are made avaialbe in class for silent reading periods and open discussions. This activity creates a generational learning community which is beneficial to the students when writing their own reports. Students not only get to see "models" of what it looks like to write about one's feelings and thoughts, but are aware, when writing their own report, that future students will be reading their reports and benefiting from them. Students are thus motivated not merely externally for grades, but internally as well, in that writing for the generational curriculum involves their desire to share, to instruct, and to advise peers.

This last motive is clearly evident from the fact that only about 3% of the students over the years have chosen not to contribute their reports to the Generational Curriculum archives, and another 5% choose at the end of the semester to remove their names from the reports (while leaving the reports behind). Thus, over 90% of the students regularly volunteer to contribute their papers to the Generational Curriculum archives and choose to leave their names on the reports. The motive to share and instruct peers enhances the work ethic for the majority of students as evidenced by the fact that they regularly write almost twice as much as the minimum required, and often go to great lengths to format their text in interesting and artistic ways. There are great differences with regard to the level of details provided in these reports, as one would expect, given individual differences, culture, and attitude. Students are advised that they are to sample their feelings and thoughts, and report only those that they feel at ease sharing publicly. They can see from the grading that it is independent of personal content and depends only on formal features such as length, appearance, structured or not according to instructions, and context, such as outside citations and application of theory. Any students who are uncomfortable with these procedures are allowed to opt out in favor of a more traditional type of library research report, models of which are also available in the Generational Curriculum archives.

The Internet Self-Witnessing Report

The biweekly lab report was to contain the following sections: (1) Navigation: A sample of what you have explored and participated in and the thoughts and feelings that were involved. At this date the text browser known as Lynx was available throughout the semester. Graphic browsers such as Netscape only became available towards the end of the semester, and few students used it. (2) Resources: A sample of what you read, saved, downloaded or printed. (3) Glossary: New terms or names you've learned, to be defined only in your own words and to the extent of your comprehension. (4) Plans: Some current projects and plans for future explorations.

Grading did not take into account the content of the self-reports but only the form, namely, how extensively did the student carry out the instructions. There was a high correlation between grade and physical appearance of the report: its size, its formatting, its appendix of printouts; and this in turn was highly correlated with how many hours were spent on the Internet, exploring and keeping track of the explorations and their affective and cognitive context. Each student wrote 6 biweekly reports for the 12 weeks of Internet use, amounting to a total of approximately 36 pages of text per student, double spaced, and supplemented by an appendix of about 60 pages of various Internet printouts. Graded reports were always returned within a week, with comments for improvement. About half of the students availed themselves of the opportunity to resubmit one or more lab reports in order to earn a higher grade. The resubmissions were longer, offered more detailed documentation, and were free of spelling errors.

Class Discussions

A portion of each week's class was devoted to reading and discussing each other's lab reports. Students were encouraged to write comments on each other's reports, which were later eagerly read by the reports' respective authors. They were also encouraged to take notes when they saw some useful ideas or approach in any report, for possible use of their own later. As a result of sharing self-witnessing reports and discussing the "week's problems," there quickly developed a group solidarity feeling which allowed students to vent frustrations and strengthen each other in the face of fear of failure. They received no Internet instruction, were left to fend for themselves, yet were pressured by the requirement to turn in a documented biweekly lab report. This created a social atmosphere similar to that of a 'group project' facing a communal deadline.

The weekly class discussions offered a benign and apparently successful social-educational environment in which it was all right to show fear and admit incompetence. Though the students maintained their focus on the instructor, the majority of the exchanges for each session was carried out by the students in response to other students. After several years of teaching with course-integrated electronic learning communities on PLATO (James, 1991), we are convinced of the great value of getting individuals together, for regular face to face discussions on 'how it's going.' This therapeutic effect is no doubt the origin and success of 'user groups.'

In this case, the facilitative effects of the group were probably enhanced by the use of a textbook by (Kuhlthau, 1993) which describes in detail the cognitive and affective behaviors of students participating in a longitudinal study of their information seeking process. Each week, two students gave a brief oral presentation of their assigned chapter of Kuhlthau, which was followed by a general discussion. It appears that the content of this book helped students become more reflective and aware of their own affective and cognitive development while learning the Internet. Equally important, by explicitly and openly raising affective issues, the book helped students get over their emotional disturbance during the initial phase of learning Internet, when uncertainty, confusion, and fear become the affective context for the learning.

The permissive social atmosphere in class helped students feel legitimized in their own difficult experience during the first few weeks of Internet use. They discovered that it was normal to feel frustrated, angry and anxious when the task of logging on to UNIX with one's home modem, or printing an Internet document at the computing lab, becomes an hour-long, problem-solving chore with uncertain results. They found out that it's normal to be confused about the difference between Gopher, Lynx, and Mosaic, or not to know the difference between Archie, WAIS or string searching within a document. By sharing stories, they saw that anyone might feel upset when Veronica repeatedly answers with "**Cannot access file at this time.**" Perhaps one need not feel guilty or stupid for wanting to punch the computer, nor embarrassed or foolish, for thinking that one has "erased the Internet" as one student put it, or "injured its programs" as some others feared. Also, it's fine to feel elated or even ecstatic when a search returns 12 pages of Gopher titles on a long sought for topic. It's O.K. to feel proud of oneself when getting off that first e-mail message to a friend, or when first succeeding in creating a new sub-directory in one's home directory. Eventually, with the help of the group process, students came to understand and accept the uneven, unpredictable, and uncontrollable series of feelings and thoughts that an Internet session regularly presented for them.

Our observations of the psychological dynamics of the class over the 12 weeks, indicate that one reason why regular group discussions were beneficial, was the 'contagion' of enthusiasm from the few to the many. Two or three enthusiastic students in a class of 20 can significantly shift the group's acceptance level from 'lukewarm' upward, by injecting their enthusiasm and excitement through the stories they tell about their Internet navigation, the hefty and interesting reports they write about places and people on the World Wide Web, and the positive role behaviors as Internet explorers they constantly display in class. Another beneficial effect of the community learning atmosphere, was the mutual 'damage control' that could be frequently observed, and which occurs when a discouraged or disgruntled individual complains about problems and the others listen sympathetically, interpret empathically, and offer workable solutions, including volunteering to give assistance. Without this social community learning atmosphere consisting of predictable group support, the course may not have been successful for some of the students. As it was, none of the 20 students failed or did badly. The majority of the class obtained a well-earned grade of A, and the rest followed close behind with a B+. Anonymous course evaluation feedback confirms this positive assessment.

II. Affective and Cognitive Inventory of Learning the Internet

Following the completion of the course, we inspected the archived self-witnessing reports with the intent of detecting common patterns in the experience of the 20 students who spent 12 weeks learning Internet. Such data about their learning is useful in planning changes for the same seminar to be offered to new cohorts of students. In addition, empirically observed common patterns of how people learn and adapt to Internet, can be useful data to help us understand the psychological and educational variables that contribute to becoming a lifelong Internet user.

We used a technique of content analysis (Nahl-James & James, 1992) which consists of two steps: (1) Reading and delineating a block of text in which either of us can spontaneously recognize a pattern or theme; (2) reflecting and labeling the pattern in relation to other patterns already named. Here is an example of such an item selected from a lab report:

What an increase in time saving from my first several sessions. I have learned that I am a person that is very time efficient. I like time management so, this really gave me an adrenaline rush. I seemed to have no problem in choosing which menu to get into in order to find the subject topic that I need. What an improvement! My self-esteem when dealing with computers has grown tremendously. I did not realize how much a negative attitude hindered you from completing a task proficiently.

The student is expressing self-satisfaction after discovering that she can be efficient at using Gopher titles. A similar affect is present in this text segment, and it seems that the common psychological element between the two is the presence in both of a desire for mastering Internet. When this motive is present, it functions as a source of intense feelings of self-satisfaction. A desire for mastery is also evident in the following sample:

At the beginning of the search, I kept saying, "You can do this." I had adopted the same strategy I had before and knew I could access the information that way. Once I got the information I had set out for on Women, I said, "See I told you.

Once we have identified the presence of some affective skill, we then look for it in other reports to see if we can further confirm its empirical status by finding more instances of it from other students, as in the following:

What an accomplishment!!! I no longer feel controlled by or inferior to the computer. I am the one in control. After all, the computer is just a machine, right? It is only as good as its user and at this point, I feel that I can accomplish anything. What a power rush.

And again:

After I selected Mosaic and got the same problem I had to reflect on why I felt so compelled to try again. It seems as though my mind wants desperately to clear up the confusion. It almost feels painful to continue without first answering the question in my mind. I then reflect back on my commitment to move ahead to avoid wasting a lot of time.

The presence of a desire for mastering Internet tasks is sufficiently confirmed that we can now add it to the inventory. Continuing this content analysis for all the self-witnessing lab reports (20 students with 6 reports each), yielded 12 distinct learner variables on Internet. We list them below with two sample entries each. Future research will determine the generalizability of these developmental habits. In the meantime, the variables can be considered empirically derived hypotheses to be further tested.

The Twelve Learner Variables

(1) Striving for Accuracy on Internet

Sample 1: I got really frustrated at myself because I thought I had saved a variety of files to my e-mail address, but I didn't. I realized this when I returned to Pine awaiting all those files and nothing was there. You can believe I took a few deep breaths. Here I thought I was navigating and getting a better grip on accessing the multitude of pathways that I was indeed saving to screen and sending the files to my mail.

Sample 2: I find myself just about typing just as fast as I can think. Well, I can't really go that far, but I sure can type faster than I can write now. This is good, because before this class I dreaded typing things and now I'm very proficient. This is definitely an improvement in my character.

(2) Having the Motive to Persist in Internet Tasks

Sample 1: I decided to use Veronica for this search. I first chose the search at server University of Pisa, it was too busy. Then I tried University of Minnesota and got in. I entered "gender" into the search bar. It came up empty. I got out of Veronica and got into the regular Gopher again. I knew the information was there, I just had to find it. I got back into "4. Gopher Jewels" then "8. Social Science" then "5. Women." This was exactly what I was looking for. I printed the index from this option.

Sample 2: My last session I had such a terrible time with Lynx. Last time I tried using all the Help commands in the highlighted bar at the bottom of the screen. I pressed the arrow keys like it instructed me to do, but there was no change on the screen. The computer did beep at me to let me know I couldn't use that command. I had to think now. After a long reflective pause I tried the cursor keys on the calculator section of the keyboard but, I got the same beep response. Not surprised. I next tried the shift key. Nothing changed. Then I tried the Tab key and to my delight a new set of words was highlighted. This was a very exciting breakthrough for me. Next I took immense pleasure in just tabbing around to different highlighted words for awhile. At this point my mood had certainly changed. I was actually laughing out loud and screaming with pleasure.

(3) Feeling Self-confident on Internet

Sample 1: There are times when I feel I can do anything, that I have the patience to endure anything and just when things are looking up for me something goes awry and I'm back to square one. That's life, I know, but I can't help wondering if these little setback aren't a purposeful attempt by some unknown to pull my chain. I had begun my navigation in Mosaic, hoping to find something interesting to print and show the class. I was, surprisingly, very open to confronting many dead ends; it seemed as if nothing was going to bother me during this session.

Sample 2: This lab is going to start off with a much more positive attitude than the previous labs that I have written. Most of my navigation has been through Mosaic. I have finally accomplished what I had thought to have been the impossible. I have been able to navigate my way through Mosaic with quite a bit of success.

(4) Desire for Mastering Internet Tasks
(see examples just above)

(5) Having Motivation for Task-Completion on Internet

Sample 1: I next read the rest of my e-mail and as I got to the end I noticed I started to get nervous about proceeding ahead in Lynx. Still nervous, I wonder if that will ever go away. The nervousness is not about whether I dump information or break the computer. My main concern is I'm not going to accomplish very much; that's what most of my concern and stress is about.

Sample 2: My keystrokes slowed down when I was unsure about what to do. They also quickened after I had devised a plan and was following through on it. I smile when I finally found what I was looking for.

(6) Being attracted to Internet

Sample 1: I was surprised to find the topic Aviation right under subjects in the WWW. This had so much helpful stuff in it, I was very ecstatic. I began then to really love Lynx. Wow, I came a long way from just being able to wordprocess to now being able to find info from home on just about any topic that I want. I'm very pleased with my improvement on the computer and on the Internet.

Sample 2: Prior to this computer session I experienced apprehension due to my unfamiliarity with Mosaic. I could not understand what it was that Mosaic did. However, during this particular computer session, I was able to explore different topics. I love the way I can put the cursor on any one of the italicized topics and automatically get in.

(7) Personalizing Internet

Sample 1: I chose to look up Women's Health first because I felt it was an issue I was interested in. I'm trying to navigate through the Internet with specific personal goals incorporated into what is requested in class. I bookmarked the information on domestic Violence because after I graduate this semester I may try to work as a low level counselor at a domestic abuse shelter.

Sample 2: My main activity these past two weeks has been reading information that I have found on-line. The cyberscope section in Newsweek magazine has been fun to read. They always have something useful or fun to share. I also just discovered PC Currents: The Computer Newsmagazine for Hawaii.

(8) Contextualizing Internet

Sample 1: I bookmarked and read some of the "Women's Handbook (1992) Barnard College/Columbia University," which discusses many gender and female issues from academics to recreation to self-defense. I'll probably save this to my account too. After going through the entire list, I also bookmarked health care issues and will come back to it for the next project. I will "I have become more comfortable using the Lynx system lately. I find so much more information on many topics on Lynx than I find on just Gopher. I guess the reason for that is that Lynx accesses Gopher plus much more. I am beginning to like the Lynx system more now that I've become more familiar with it. Some things still bug me about Lynx though. Sometimes I don't like sitting there reading through those paragraphs trying to find the link that I'm looking for. That's only when I'm pressed for time though.

Sample 2: I have become more comfortable using the Lynx system lately. I find so much more information on many topics on Lynx than I find on just Gopher. I guess the reason for that is that Lynx accesses Gopher plus much more. I am beginning to like the Lynx system more now that I've become more familiar with it. Some things still bug me about Lynx though. Sometimes I don't like sitting there reading through those paragraphs trying to find the link that I'm looking for. That's only when I'm pressed for time though. So even though I get frustrated and don't find what I'm looking for in a timely fashion, I have actually accomplished something good for myself. This makes me feel better about the whole session in general.

(9) Inference making on Internet

Sample 1: In the beginning of the search I thought, "Where would the computer put this information." It kind of became a little game for me to figure out where the information can be stored. I tried to be clever. I thought of the remote subject matter before the obvious. As I browsed up and down the subject list, I kept saying, "Could it be there?" At last I decided on Human rights. I knew gender related topics would be there, yet in an abstract sort of way. I felt the material would be more centered on specific groups rather than if I had looked it up under Women's Studies.

Sample 2: I discovered Lynx for the very first time. I really felt a sense of enthusiasm upon discovering Lynx. Perhaps I felt less stress in using Lynx because it was easy to access and furthermore it was interesting. Initially I was puzzled by the title on the introduction page called Welcome to Honolulu Community College. I thought, What does Honolulu Community College have to do with Lynx? Surprisingly I figured out that the introduction page was a type of menu, whereby one can highlight the different topics and reach an entirely new gateway. I was amazed at the different topics on the menu and the numerous gateways, especially World Wide Web.

(10) Predicting or Expecting Internet Functions

Sample 1: Since I had found Immanuel Kant's The Science of Right in Gopher last week, I wanted to see if I could find it in Lynx. After searching for Kant and finding his name in the Gopher of the American Philosophical Association, I was denied access to the document containing The Science of Right. Hoping to find a copy of it some other place, I worked my way through the WWW catalog and WWW Worm without finding it. Since I had found it through Gopher, I realized that the document was there, but that I did not know how to find it through Lynx. In frustration, I terminated this session.

Sample 2: I decided to go into Lynx. I got quite a bit of information from one server in Gopher, imagine what was in Lynx.

(11) Identifying One's Problems on Internet

Sample 1: Once I figure how to print the information I would certainly like to print the information that my friend wants. I ran into retrieval problems and I discovered that printing from this area was not a simple procedure. I spent over 1 hour figuring why I could not get the information to print. I tried all options with no success.

Sample 2: When I take position at the computer terminal I have set in my mind an idea of what I am interested in locating through my search. I chose to focus much more time these two weeks in Lynx rather than Gopher. My idea was to discover and understand what Lynx has to offer.

(12) Observing and Noting Details on Internet

Sample 1: My first setback was that I had not given my bookmark a proper name or string. What the heck did it mean by a 'string.' Well, I remembered that the name in the bookmark setting, in 'options,' had three separate names divided by a period. Then I remembered the string that Dr. James gave in class, lynx bookmark.html, is what I had written in my notes. So, I typed in lynx.bookmark.html in the bookmark field. This obviously had done the trick because instead of getting an Error-unable to access bookmark message, I got the message box for the bookmark command. I then pushed 'L' to link to bookmark, and it flashed a quick 'done' message. I was warm and fuzzy, let me tell ya.

Sample 2: As I read their other reports it seemed that they were not runnning into major problems anymore. Their writing style became more free as if they had confidence in the work that they were doing. Overall, reading their reports gave me an idea of how other students thought and felt about this experience. It is very interesting when we show the same reactions.

IV. Three Stages in Internet Adaptation

It took much reflection and comparison to prior taxonomic work (James & Nahl-James, 1987; James & Nahl-James, 1990; Nahl-James & James, 1992) to be able to finally come up with a theoretically meaningful arrangement of these 12 patterns of learning Internet behaviors. Following prior work on the taxonomy, we looked for the presence of three levels of the process of becoming a lifelong Internet user. In the general taxonomy, these three levels were identified as orientation, interaction, and internalization. The orientation level is "stimulus-bound or concrete" in which users are challenged to "memorize locations, procedures, new vocabulary" (James & Nahl-James, 1987, 205). The interaction level "requires the reformation of one's thinking, the reordering of one's values" to be more similar to those of the system and information specialists. At the internalization level, users enter a "moral and global relationship" to the system" characterized by a "feeling of congruence" with values appropriate to the system's culture in which the user becomes "a supporting patron, promoting the goals and functions of [the system] " and "appreciating [its] role in the preservation of ideas and freedom" (James & Nahl-James, 1987, 206).

Level 1 Adaptation to Internet: Achieving Focus (see Table 1)
Applying the taxonomic rationale to the process of adapting to Internet, the first level of achieving this status would mean building a coherent focus of Internet by collecting learned building blocks and keeping them together in some coherent fashion. "Cognitive orientation" to Internet proceeds by observing differences (e.g., what a command leads to), and by identifying sub-tasks. "Affective orientation" to Internet requires activation of the motive to persist, to keep going at it, and the motive to be accurate in executing Internet tasks. The first level of Internet learning, that of achieving focus, thus consists of four of the 12 variables identified in the inventory. Two of these are cognitive (items 4 and 12) and two are affective (items 3 and 8). In this taxonomy, the affective specifies the motive while the cognitive gives the means by which the motive is carried out. By lining up items 1 and 12 and 2 and 11, we see the relationship depicted in Table 1. . Level 1, which is achieving focus on Internet, proceeds when learners under the motivation to be accurate and persistent make appropriate observations and identify sub-tasks.

Level 2 Adaptation to Internet: Achieving Engagement (see Table 2)

Level 2 in the general taxonomy, called "interaction," denotes that phase of information seeking which requires that the user become engaged, affectively and cognitively, by proceeding with self-confidence to gaining mastery over Internet navigation and file management techniques. Self-confidence as a legitimate Internet user is enhanced when one's expectations and predictions start coming true more and more. Self-confidence then guides expectations and predictions, providing users with the motive to explore and make new decisions. These relations are depicted in Table 2.

Level 3 Adaptation to Internet: Achieving Acceptance (see Table 3)

Level 3, internalization, is entered when users begin to accept Internet by contextualizing and personalizing it in the presence of feelings of attraction and the desire for task completion, as depicted in Table 3 . The three levels of Internet adaptation may proceed at different pace for various activities. For example, students readily adapted to e-mail (Pine client) and to browsing with Gopher. They quickly, most within one session, achieved Focus and Engagement levels since the tasks were straightforward and easily mastered. Only one of the 20 students failed to send the instructor an e-mail message, which was the first week's assignment of learning Internet. Acceptance then naturally followed when they began using e-mail with each other and with friends and family. Similarly, browsing with Gopher is easy to master and use to pursue interests and curiosities. With more difficult activities, such as searching with Veronica for some specific topic, or using Virtual Library on the Web to find some assigned subject, acceptance was more difficult and took longer by several weeks.

In the initial stages of coping with Lynx, students saw it as a less preferred alternative to Gopher. Browsing with Gopher was an activity clear to picture and understand: a series of endless indexes through which you can climb up and down, or in and out. Some students called it "menus within menus." Lynx on the other hand was a sorry mess: messed up screens with bold all over and things that didn't make sense, especially sudden jumps to totally surprising places. A few students got to use Mosaic towards the end of the semester, and although the graphics appeared spectacular in comparison, students were reluctant to switch browsers. They acted as if learning a new navigation tool late in the semester was not worth the extra effort, especially since it was not required, an attitude that we find common among novices and which undoubtedly relates to people's technophobic tendencies.

Students generally had difficulty achieving focus (level 1) with Lynx. The desire for accuracy and persistence in observing and identifying problems was inhibited or mitigated by negative emotional reactions such as fear, frustration, aversion, helplessness. Rather than acceptance of Lynx, rejection was the general response. "Why bother with Lynx when you have Gopher? There is nothing on it anyway." However, on the fourth week of Internet use, when they were assigned searching tasks on Lynx, it appeared that they had achieved Focus (level 1) by necessity: time pressure created a stronger motive that overcame aversion and brought the motivation for being accurate and persistent, without which the Lynx search assignment had to fail. All 20 students reached this level by the fourth week of training.

The Engagement phase (level 2) was achieved at different rates by the students. The best, or fastest, came to class with excitement and enthusiasm, which eventually spread to the rest. Throughout the last third of the 12-week experience, all students regularly searched for and read Web documents retrieved through Lynx. However, only about half of the students were fully committed to hypertext cyberspace and used Lynx (or Mosaic) to browse "for fun" (i.e., above and beyond what was required). For these students, the Acceptance phase (level 3) came when their cognitive representation of Internet was sufficiently contextualized to see large objects such as gateways and global nets, interacting with small objects such as e-mail messages, Gopher menus, and favorite Web Bookmarks. The slower or more resistant learners may also achieve this third phase, but may require more time and assistance. Ultimately it is the personalization of Internet, visible in the presence of attraction and the desire for completion, that achieves acceptance and life long use, to the benefit of the individual who is empowered and charmed thereby.

V. Overview and Conclusions

This study describes the longitudinal process of learning the Internet by 20 college students who were given weekly Internet assignments without any formal instruction. For 12 weeks they prepared bi-weekly self-witnessing lab reports documenting their Internet activities along with some of the feelings and thoughts they wished to share publicly. Class discussions acquired the flavor of weekly group counseling sessions by the fact that some students were emotionally distraught over their Internet frustrations while others, more successful and enthusiastic, spontaneously came to their rescue, offering orientation, advice and reassurance. It is likely that without this social learning community as the group context for the class, some of the students would not have progressed and could have become resistant and avoidant of Internet. All students within such a community context were able to succeed.

The self-witnessing reports that were voluntarily contributed by the students were later analyzed in their archival form. From this data there emerges a picture of learning the Internet in three stages of affective-cognitive integration (refer to Table 1) . Level 1, Achieving Focus, requires the presence of two motives: wanting to be accurate and persisting at sub-tasks. These two affective skills guide and manage their two corresponding cognitive skills: observing changes and differences from moment to moment, and unitizing sequences of acts into identifiable elements with a known function or use. In this initial learning phase, the Internet user needs a lot of orientation activities: what things are, where they are, how to get to them, how to get out of things, what things are not, and the like. These represent problems whose solution lies in using one's cognitive skills for noting differences between titles, observing changes on the screen, noting what the computer does when pressing a key, associating commands or locations with each other, taking notes, and so on. All these cognitive skills at level 1 require the presence of affective skills at level 1, namely being able to persist at a task without quitting prematurely, or being able to maintain vigilance and attention for detail and accuracy. A group or community context during the early phases of adaption appears to facilitate for many novices, the acquisition of affective skills, which in turn facilitate the acquisition of cognitive skills.

Level 2 (refer to Table 2) , Achieving Engagement, requires the presence of two additional motives: feeling self-confident to explore and having the desire for mastering Internet sub-tasks. These affective skills create a dynamic alignment between themselves and two corresponding cognitive skills: (I) the ability to make correct predictions regarding commands, functions or the meaning of titles, and (II) the ability to make correct inferences about outcomes and events. The cognitive skill of predicting is a response to the affective skill of feeling self-confident, and leads to exploring, browsing, or 'lurking'. In this intermediate phase (level 2), Internet users need a lot of hands-on interaction and the sheer accumulation of logged hours. However, even with the acquired abilities of using UNIX, Pine, Gopher, Veronica, Lynx, WAIS, ftp, and telnet, students would not have continued to be Internet users beyond what was required by the course. A third, more internalized level of adaptation was needed to insure acceptance and lifelong commitment to Internet use.

Level 3 (see Table 3) , Achieving Acceptance, requires the presence of two additional motives, more internalized than at the previous level: the desire for task-completion and a feeling of attraction, excitement, or love for Internet. Internet learners must activate in themselves motives for task-completion in order to guide the acquisition of a cumulative mental map of it. An Internet session is characterized by a multiplicity of simultaneous and successive tasks. The learner needs to care about keeping track of unfinished tasks, or what has been called "the affective Zeigarnik effect" (Nahl-James & James, 1985) As experience grows the user's mental map becomes more complex and integrated and serves the function of providing a context for all new happenings or encounters.

In addition to contextualizing, learners need to personalize the Internet, which can happen when they feel attracted or enthusiastic. Users who have personalized Internet show this by impatiently and excitedly checking their new e-mail, and by talking about their favorite bookmarks or places to visit or newsgroup to lurk in. Users personalize Internet when they react to content by expressing agreement, disagreement, shock, surprise, or any other 'flame' response. Personalization of Internet also occurs when sessions become regular in one's schedule. Once contextualized and personalized, Internet becomes an accepted part of society along with libraries, television, or the post office. Lifelong Internet use is thus assured.


(Note: Leon James was formerly Leon A. Jakobovits.)

James, L. A. (1991). Course-Integrated Electronic Socializing on PLATO. UHCC Newsletter, 28(2), 12-14.

James, L. A., & Nahl-James, D. (1987). Learning the Library: Taxonomy of Skills and Errors. College and Research Libraries, 48(3), 203-214.

James, L. A., & Nahl-James, D. (1990). Measuring Information Searching Competence. College and Research Libraries, 51(5), 448-462.

Kuhlthau, C. C. (1993). Seeking Meaning: A Process Approach to Library and Information Services. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corp.

Nahl, Diane and Carol Tenopir. Cognitive and Affective Searching Behavior of Novice End-Users of a Full Text Database. JASIS Journal of the American Society for Information Science (in press March 1996 issue).

Nahl-James, D., & James, L. A. (1985). Managing the Affective Micro-Information Environment. Research Strategies, 3(1), 17-28.

Nahl-James, D., & James, L. A. (1992). A Content Analysis Method for Developing User-Based Objectives. Research Strategies, 10(1), 4-16.

Nahl-James, D., & James, L. A. (1993). Bibliographic Instructional Design for Information Literacy: Integrating Affective and Cognitive Objectives. Research Strategies, 11(2), 73-88.

Table 1: Achieving Focus on Internet

Level 1 of Internet Adaptation: ACHIEVING FOCUS


Affective Label


Cogntive Label

Striving for accuracy on Internet tasks Observing and noting differences Observing
Having the motive to persist on Internet tasks Identifying one's problems on Internet Identifying

Table 2: Achieving Engagement on Internet

Level 2 of Internet Adaptation: ACHIEVING ENGAGEMENT


Affective Label


Cogntive Label

Feeling self-confident Predicting and expecting Internet functions Predicting
Having the desire for mastery on Internet tasks Making inferences about what leads to what Inference Making

Table 3: Achieving Acceptance on Internet

Level 3 of Internet Adaptation: ACHIEVING ACCEPTANCE


Affective Label


Cogntive Label

Having the desire to complete Internet tasks Invovlving an Internet map as a context for new tasks Contextualizing
Feeling symptoms of attraction to Internet tasks (love, excitement) Finding Internet personally relevant Personalizing

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