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We constructed a blocked design: one block was the control group and another was the treatment group. After the treatment group received six weeks of formalized spreadsheet training, both groups were administered post-tests. The post-tests have been validated by ETS and are considered an equivalent test to the pre-test. The ETS tests indicate no significant learning effect between the pre- and post-test. The post-test followed the same basic steps as the pre-test, except the participants were not required to complete the demographics questionnaire.
The participants in the experiment were undergraduate students enrolled in one of two courses conducted at a large land-grant university: Survey of Accounting (control group), or Personal Computers in Business (treatment group). A total of 42 subjects participated in both the pre- and post-test with 50% (n=21) in each of the treatment and control groups. We used a blocked controlled experiment (Cook & Campbell, 1979) where the students enrolled in the personal computer class received the treatment (i.e., spreadsheet training). The sample was composed of 48% males and 74% sophomores. Participants had a mean Grade Point Average of 2.76 (based on 4.00 scale) with a standard deviation of .45. Forty-eight percent had no work experience involving computer usage. Ninety percent were full-time students (taking 12 or more credit hours/semester) and 70% were not working during the semester of the experiment. Students were free to discontinue participation in the experiment at any time. Seven participants failed to return for the post-test, and were removed from the sample, resulting in the final total of 42 participants.
At the end of the training period, students were required to take a spreadsheet content examination using a personal computer in which they had to create, change, or comment on several spreadsheet models. This synchronous, on-site testing environment was considered the most appropriate way to evaluate what the students had actually learned from the spreadsheet training. The participants in the treatment group averaged 86% on the spreadsheet exam and averaged 86% on the projects indicating that they had obtained at least a reasonable degree of proficiency in the required concepts and tools of proper spreadsheet design and implementation.
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