A qualitative study on the anxiety of IT students towards professional skills training

Authors Mariecke Schipper, Esther van der Stappen
Published in Proceedings (april 2020)
Publication date 27 November 2019
Research groups Digital Ethics
Type Lecture


The importance of professional skills in future engineering jobs is beyond discussion. Increasing numbers of universities have integrated training for such skills in their engineering curricula to prepare students to become highly qualified employees. HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht also implemented professional skills training in the IT Bachelor program to help our students develop towards successful and highly demanded IT engineers. However, these courses consistently score low in our student satisfaction surveys. To find the cause of this negative evaluation, we previously studied the motivation, attitude and anxiety of IT students towards learning soft, or professional, skills. This former quantitative study indicates that our IT students tend to have a positive motivation and attitude toward learning professional skills, while ’anxiety’ in learning professional skills increases from the first to the third year. In this qualitative study, we try to find causes for the increasing anxiety among IT students. We interviewed six third and fourth year IT students and after analysing these interviews we found that these students have experienced the need for professional skills during their internship. Besides, they emphasize the need of obtaining these skills for future employment. From the analysis of the interviews, it also appears that IT students rather felt difficulty in obtaining communication skills then anxiety. A possible cause for this difficulty mentioned by students was the character of students and the influence of the teacher. To overcome this difficulty obtaining communication skills, students suggested that training skills in an authentic engineering situation is more effective than doing exercises with simulated cases. However, the results of this study did not yield a conclusive insight in the cause of increased anxiety, hence further research is needed.

On this publication contributed

Language English
Published in Proceedings (april 2020)
Key words Professional skills, IT education
Page range 223-237

Mariecke Schipper