September 24, 2012
ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2012

Educause logoThis year’s report from the Educause Center for Applied Research on undergraduate students and information technology is out, and contains a great deal of information about what kinds of communication technologies undergraduate students are using and how they best learn (or say they do). As academic library services, content, and operations are increasingly bound up in these same technologies, there are quite a few concrete implications from this report for how we do what we do:

  • Three out of four undergraduate students have taken a course that includes at least some online components.
  • Students would prefer that their professors used more of certain kinds of online learning tools and content, including e-books.
  • 86% of college students own laptops; 62% own smartphones. Tablet/e-reader ownership is still low, but increasing.
  • Few students use mobile devices to access library resources, but many students use these devices for “quick check” information.
  • The library website is one of the most-used technologies provided by the college, ranking closely behind the course management system.
  • Student e-book and e-textbook use is increasing rapidly.
  • Students still prefer to communicate with instructors through e-mail, face to face, and using the CMS.
  • Online portfolios and web-based citation tools are two technologies that students are using substantially more.

Takeaways from the above:

  • A library presence in an online course or CMS is essential, and could include links to specific resources, a complete ported research guide, or a research help widget.
  • If libraries are not already including e-books in our collections, it’s past time to start. Look for licenses that allow multiple users and/or the creation of excerpts for course or assigned reading, and formats/technologies that are usable, convenient, and accessible.
  • Libraries should concern ourselves less with lending out devices, and more with making our services, content, and applications device- and platform-agnostic. Offering spaces and services for students to use their own devices—workspace, power outlets, wireless Internet, and wireless printing—is critical.
  • Mobile apps for conducting research are lower priority than mobile-optimized information concerning library hours, getting help, study room availability, and other on-the-go needs.
  • Library websites need to be up-to-date, easily findable, well integrated with the rest of the institution’s online presence, and browser-agnostic.
  • While a social network presence for libraries is a good idea, librarians are closer to instructors than to peers in student perceptions. A social network presence should be integrated into an overall PR awareness plan; don’t make too much of it.
  • Library resources and instruction on source citation should take the proliferation of e-portfolios and web-based citation tools into account.

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