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India - Survery of 1st Year Pharmacy Students´s Computer Skills

A pharmacist in today's scenario has to use computers to perform many critical tasks. For example, they have to rapidly access patient and medication data, have to perform critical non-distributive activities, and document their actions as per norms. It is the likelihood that pharmaceutical computer applications will expand in the future.




Chordia Institute of Pharmacy, Gram New Baroli, Sanwer Road,

Indore 452010 {M.P.} +91-0731-6468899

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The purpose of this study was to determine first-year Bachelor of Pharmacy & first-year Diploma in Pharmacy student's computer backgrounds and attitudes. 221 students completed a survey that analyzed their computer knowledge, types of software they used, and attitudes about computers. The majority of students (159 students, 72 %) had used a computer at least once in a week. Most (153 students, 69 %) used computers for surfing internet; and (29 students 13 %) for assignment and other purposes while rest of the (39 students, 17 %) said they used computers in college computer laboratory only. Software usage includes a high percentage of MS-Word, Power-point & excel sheet; medium percentage of MS-Dos to a low percentage of languages, hardware & operating systems. About half (102 students, 46 %) said they could use a spreadsheet. Regardless of software they used, most of the students said that they are not proficient with applications they use. About 70% said they have positive attitudes towards learning computers, but 12 percent said they find it difficult while rest are not clear about their answers.

Students viewed computers as important parts of their professional education, but appeared to want courses that included both computer and human components. These findings suggest that faculty should consider differences in student's attitudes, experiences and adaptability with computers when planning a computer course or assignments. The faculty should also include innovations while teaching to change students mind towards pragmatic use of computers in the field of pharmacy.

* Corresponding Author


A pharmacist in today's scenario has to use computers to perform many critical tasks. For example, they have to rapidly access patient and medication data, have to perform critical non-distributive activities, and document their actions as per norms. The likelihood that pharmaceutical computer applications will expand in the future has been reflected in curricular guidelines of universities that suggest need of Pharmacy graduates to apply computer skills and technological advances to practice. Several factors have increased pharmacy students' use of computers. Pharmacy faculty suggested how computers can be used in pharmacy practice and can help students to acquire computer skills, assess students' confidence using computers, develop computer software to enhance student learning. Pharmacy colleges also recognized that their students need computer skills and to make computers accessible to all students. Curricular standards emphasize that graduates must be able to use computers in their future practice. Finally, an increase demand for certain types of professional services stimulates computer use in various types of pharmacy settings. Other health professions also recognize that computers could play key roles in education and practice. Many pharmacists recommended that pharmacy students must possess specific computer skills, earlier recommendations and emphasis on pharmacy colleges to develop the computer skills of students and faculty suggested that institutions should support introduction of computers into instruction with innovations. That support is evident with the widespread availability of computers in eighty-five pharmacy colleges under Rajiv Gandhi Proudhyogiki Vishwavidhyalayay, Bhopal (M.P.) to include computer technology in their curricula.

The above study suggested that the majority of students had used computers frequently during their entire course:

Table I. First-Year Students of different backgrounds reported software experience and expertise

First Year Students
of different field

  Pharmacy #

Medical *

Other Science background**

No. of  Students




#-Data as per study of 221 students of CIP, IIP & SCOPE.

*-As per data collected from M.G.M. Medical College.

**-As per data collected from M.B.Khalsa College

The above survey of first year pharmacy students of Chordia Institute of Pharmacy, Indore Institute of Pharmacy and Smriti College of Pharmaceutical Education suggested that students were moderately confident about using computers, most (76 %) did not own personal computers, and about 20 % of them had taken a computer course. Respondents from various pharmacy field reported that they used a variety of software applications. Pharmacy students, for example, indicated that they used computers for assignments, word processing, literature searches, and internet surfing. Some learners appeared quite apprehensive about learning to use computers. A survey of 221 pharmacy students, found that 18 percent were apprehensive about learning to use computers, learner expertise was low with the software they used. For example, 156 of 221 (71 %) pharmacy students said they could use a literature search program, but only 3 % students rated themselves as "expert" users. This diversity among students indicates that some need computer skills training and support to accomplish computer-based assignments. Planned learning activities-within a course and across a curriculum-can help individuals acquire and polish computer skills that they can use throughout their careers. (See Table II).

Table II. First-Year Bachelor of Pharmacy & Diploma in Pharmacy Students' reported software experience and expertise


No. of percents of respondents who said they could use it a

Number of percents of user's reported level of expertise




Word Processing




















Operating systems






( )= No. of students

The purpose of this study was to evaluate first-year pharmacy students' computer experience and attitudes. Specifically, it sought to answer these questions:

  1. Do students use computer in their daily use?
  2. What types of computer software do students use?
  3. What is their self-assessed level of expertise?
  4. What attitudes and concerns about computers do students have?
  5. What types of application they are proficient with?
  6. What types of application of computer they need in the field?
  7. What types of modification they need to make it more useful?

The answers to these questions were important in two ways. First, the survey results would provide faculty and administration with specific information about students' computer backgrounds. Faculty could use that information to meaningfully integrate computer activities (e.g., writing papers using word processing) into their courses. Administration could also use that information to allocate limited hardware and software resources. Second, the survey results would contribute to a growing body of knowledge about pharmacy students' computer experiences, skills, and attitudes. While this study addressed issues (e.g., pharmacy students' possession of personal computers) that had been previously explored, it also examined student's use of and self-assessed expertise in specific types of software applications.{mospagebreak}


A computer background and attitudes questionnaire was developed. The questionnaire contained three sections.

Section One: This section focused on students' computer backgrounds. The issues such as:

  • Computer ownership

  (Options: yes or no)

  • Location of computer use

  (Options: at home, college computer lab computer Learning Center, or at another location).

  • Types of computers used, and
  • Frequency of computer use within the past one month

  (Options: never, less than once a month, about once a month, about once each week, or at    least four times each week).

Section Two: This section assessed students' level of expertise with software applications such as word processing, excel sheet; DOS, languages, hardware & operating systems. For each application, students specified:

(i)                 If they could use it

(ii)               The specific name brand program that they used most often

(iii)             Their level of expertise (options: novice, intermediate, or expert)

Section Three: This section dealt with student's attitudes about computers and their willingness to acquire computer skills. Students responded to items such as using a five-point scale which ranged from

(i)                 strongly agree

(ii)               agree

(iii)             undecided / can`t say

(iv)              disagree

(v)                strongly disagree

The entire first-year pharmacy students (N-221) completed the survey during the class period of the session 2007-08 pharmacy practice course.


Computer Backgrounds

Responses to Section One items indicated that most students had some computer experience. Of the 221 students, 69 percent said that they had used computer at least once a week. Over 24 percent said they had a computer at home. Of those with home computers 90 percent owned DOS-based machines and 88 percent had possessed a computer for at least one year. Students' home computers were equipped with features such as a hard disk, CD writer and a modem.

Students were almost equally divided when asked where they would use a computer while in pharmacy: 24 percent said they would use a computer at home and 60 percent would use a computer in the college computer lab while rest 16 percent said they would use computer on cyber cafe. Most (82 percent) reported that they could operate a computer well enough to use a commercially-produced computer program.

Software Experience

Table III. Software type reported by students


Software package(s)


of class

N=221 (in %)

Word Processing

Microsoft Word , Microsoft Powerpoint,

Microsoft excel



Microsoft - DOS



C, C++





Operating systems

Windows, Linux


Two aspects of student software experience-range of use and level of reported expertise-merit attention (see Table II). First, while 79 percent students stated that they could use a word processing program, only 4 percent of reported users said that they could use the program at an "expert" level and most 44 percent rated themselves as intermediate-level users.

Second, of the 184 students who said they could use Dos, 29 percent classified themselves as novices and 18 percent said that they were experts. Thirteen (56 percent) of the students said they could use a Languages program. Hardware experience was much lower, with 21 percent of students reporting they had any experience. Consistently, students reported a novice level of expertise in the Operating systems they used (14 novices of 20 users), Dos (53 novices of 183 users), Languages (78 novices of 124 users). Students reported using a variety of name-brand software packages among the types of software applications (see Table III).

Attitudes about Computers

Students, in general, reported favorable attitudes about computers (see Table IV). Almost 70 percent agreed or strongly agreed that they were interested in learning computers. However, some students expressed reservations about using computers. When asked if they enjoyed using computers, 167 (75 percent) agreed or strongly agreed, 40 (18 percent) indicated they were undecided, and 13 (6 percent) disagreed. That diversity is also reflected in student apprehension about learning to use computers. While students appeared to view computers as an important part of their professional education, they voiced reservations about totally replacing faculty with computerized instruction. Most students (84 percent) reported that they enjoyed new and innovative learning techniques. Only 17 (8 percent) students said they would rather use computer-delivered instruction than other instructional modes. Thirteen (six percent) said they preferred computers to lectures and 89 (40 percent) students said they preferred to read texts rather than attending lectures. Students voiced a desire for computer training 96 percent agreed that they were interested in learning to use a microcomputer.

Table IV. Student responses to computer attitudes

             Number of respondents (N = 221)

   SA*          A          U          D           SD

I enjoy using computer






Computers can help/improve the quality of my professional education






Pharmacy students should be computer literate when they graduate






I enjoy using new or innovative learning techniques






I feel apprehensive about learning a computer






Computers are too complicated for me to use






I prefer learning from a computer rather than from a lecture






I would rather use computer-delivered instruction to obtain the information that I need to learn






I would rather attend lectures and read texts to learn information rather than use






I am interested in learning computer






I would rather attend computer classes (e.g., on word-processing) during lunchtime or after class






I would rather attend computer classes (e.g., on

word-processing) on weekends






SA*=Strongly Agree; A=Agree; U=Undecided; D=Disagree; SD=Strongly Disagree.{mospagebreak}


The following key points were identified from the survey results:


  • Most students had used a computer before they entered pharmacy school.

 These students had at least been exposed to computers during the last year, and over 69 percent had used a computer at least once a week. This finding suggests that some students begin pharmacy with computer skills that can be enhanced during their professional education. These skills could give them a distinct advantage in completing course assignments that use computers.

  • Most students have favorable attitudes toward computers.

Students responded to attitude items (see Table IV) positively. For example, 70 percent of these students said that they have positive attitudes towards learning computers. This finding should encourage faculty to support student use of computers when possible. Integration of computers within and across courses can foster these positive attitudes and help students realize the benefits of using computers. For example, conducting a literature search could be introduced in one course and reinforced in others. Writing could also be integrated in numerous courses.

  • Some students said they were apprehensive about learning to use computers.

This finding suggests that some students may need special attention and support to complete computer based assignments. First-year students struggling with content demands of pharmacy courses may experience additional stress if they must also learn

to use a computer. Requiring these students to complete a computer-based assignment (e.g., assignment paper) without adequate instruction and follow-up could frustrate them and adversely affect their attitudes toward computers


  • While some students (24 percent) have a computer at home, some students (60 percent) need access to a school-based computer facility.

Computer access is becoming increasingly important as faculty require students to conduct literature searches, write papers, and complete other computer-based assignments. Computer hardware and software are expensive, and many students may lack the financial resources to purchase computer equipment. Even if they can purchase the equipment, they may become frustrated with commonly-encountered computer

problems. Therefore, institutionally supported computer laboratories that provide hardware, software, and human assistance are important parts of a computer-literacy strategy. When these facilities exist, students should be oriented to the area, its

resources, and policies.

  • Most students (79 percent) said they could use a word processing program.

 This finding suggests that many students may be able to use a word processing program to write a paper with minimal support. Conversely, since 52 percent of the class said they could not use a word processing program, faculty should carefully evaluate computer-based course assignments to insure that students possess

the computer expertise required to complete them. A planned orientation to a campus computer facility, coupled with faculty/laboratory personnel support, should provide the assistance many students need to complete assignments. Students who are

very apprehensive about computers may need additional support (e.g., structured instruction combined based on one-to-one basis).

  • Many students rated themselves as novices in the software programs they could use. While self-rating of expertise is open to interpretation, the survey findings that high percent of students rated themselves as novices in the software they use could indicate that some students may be unable to use certain program features without assistance.

  • Most students say that they would attend extracurricular computer workshops to improve specific computer skills.

Workshops presented at convenient times, especially if they focus on particular

skills needed for certain assignments, might be well-attended.


Certain limitations pertain to this study. One, the survey results are based on a population of 221 students in three colleges of pharmacy located in the Indore city of M.P. state of India. Two, student responses to the level of software expertise were limited to expert, intermediate, or novice and were not operationally defined. Three, it was beyond the scope of this survey to verify students' self-reported computer skills or expertise.


The majority of these first-year pharmacy students had used a computer at least once a month during the previous year. Over 24 percent of the students had a home computer, and 60 percent relied upon a college-based computer laboratory. Software use ranged from a high of 79 percent with word-processing to a low of nine percent with Operating systems. Regardless of software used, many students categorized themselves as novice users. Most indicated positive attitudes about computers, but 12 percent said they were apprehensive about learning to use computers. Although students felt computers were important in their professional education, they appeared to want courses that included both computer and human components. These differences in students' attitudes about and experience with computers should encourage faculty to assess their students' computer experience and attitudes when planning course assignments or developing computer-based instructional innovations.



Thanks to the students and the Professors of various institutes for their immense support

during the course of present institutional survey.


1)      Anderson-Harper, HM, Mason, H.L., and Popovich, N.G., "Attitudes and beliefs of pharmacy students about using computers for instruction." Am. J. Pharm. Educ., 54, 263-268(1990).

2)      Ortiz, M.S., and Hunter, T.S., "Development of a scale to measure pharmacy student confidence using personal computers," ibid., 57, 130-134(1993).

3)      Reiss, B. "Integration of library resources into the pharmaceutics curriculum," ibid., 55(Suppl.), 140S(1991).

4)      Baker, K.R., "Why pharmacists should document their actions," Am.Phar. NS31, 878-881(1991).

5)      American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, Vol. 59, Spring 1995   

6)      Rupp, M.T., "Evaluation of prescribing errors and pharmacist interventions in community practice: An estimate of ‘value added'," ibid., NS28, 766-770(1988).

7)      Strand, L.M., Cipolle, R.J., and Morley, P.C., "Documenting the clinical pharmacist's activities: Back to basics," Drug Intell. Clin. Pharm., 22. 63-66(1988).

8)      American Council on Pharmaceutical Education, "The Proposed Revision of Accreditation Standards and Guidelines for the Professional Program in Pharmacy Leading to the Doctor of Pharmacy Degree." Standards for Curriculum. Standard No. 10, Professional Competencies., April 7, 1993.

9)      Speedie, S.M., "A computer literacy course for pharmacy students," Am. J. Pharm. Educ., 44, 158-160(1980).

10)  Newton, G.D., Popovich, N.G., and Lehman, J.D., Development and evaluation of computer-assisted guided design for problem solving instruction in self-care pharmacy practice," ibid., 55, 301-310(1991).

11)  Longstreth, J.A. "Integration of library skills throughout the curriculum at the St. Louis Colleae of Pharmacy," Am. J. Pharm. Educ., 55(Suppl.). 140S(1991).

12)  Editors of Computer Talk, "Pharmacy education: Formulating the future," computerTalk, 18-26(May/June 1993).


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