With the hope to find out whether our experiences with resources available to students were shared by the rest of the student body, we conducted two student forums where we asked students to share their habits and thoughts on resources.
The first group consisted of about 12 students whereas the second group was far smaller with about 6 students. We found that the larger group were far more open with constructive responses because of the more talkative atmosphere the larger group created. Both groups provided interesting insights and useful opinions and we were grateful to have so many willing volunteers (the free food may have helped).
They provided us with names of many websites that they use daily from shopping websites to newspapers as well as the sites they use for finding music and films. Most had smart phones which they mainly used for music and facebook, a couple had kindles that they used for books and readings, most had laptops that they use for almost everything; from reading to taking notes in lectures. Whilst on campus, those with laptops prefer using the computers on campus rather than their laptop due to faster internet connection and better screens, although due to the high demand for the campus computers at the busiest times of day, the only option for many is to use their laptops.
On the subject of choosing which sources to use, students seem to use ‘unreliable’ sites such as wikipedia to find quick definitions and information about areas of their subject they do not understand, whereas for assignments and work that their tutor will see, they use reliable sources. They can tell if it is reliable if their tutor has recommended it, if it says that it has been peer reviewed and just from knowing the website it is from e.g. Google Scholar. Most of the students decide what to read depending on whether or not they can get away with not reading it, they are also more likely to choose a reading that is short and is most relevant for the topic. Students with textbooks tend to just read the textbooks for revision and nothing else.
To complete assignments, most students go on Study Direct to find the initial relevant readings because the resources on there have been recommended by the people who mark their work. They also listen to relevant lecture recordings, lecture slides and if necessary, students will find wider readings by searching on the library search or Google Scholar. Students mainly agreed that they prefer to use printed books but a lot of the time they complete assignments last minute and save time by using online readings. It is faster not only because it doesn’t require visiting the library, but also because you can also search for keywords in some ebooks. It is too expensive for a lot of students to print off readings so barely anyone bothered.
With regards to what content is read digitally, for the subject International Relations (a subject quite a few of the respondents studied), most of the assigned readings on Study Direct are linked to ebooks or scans of book chapters. For other subjects that require textbooks such as neuroscience, students find the printed book too expensive and so online is sometimes the only option. Students read a lot of news articles online on newspaper websites or the BBC, important articles are often circulated on social media sites such as facebook. A few students choose to watch or listen to the news on their phones.
For most readings, students would only consider reading them on their laptop or on a computer rather than their phone, a couple of students used a kindle to read on the go. For short articles and very short readings, students may consider using their phone. If students arrive at lectures or seminars having not done the readings, many try to catch up while the tutor is talking. Students have different attitudes depending on the subject, if a student studying for neuroscience has not done the readings, they will not bother to go to the seminar, whereas a student studying international relations would still go. When asked whether the Library should just buy an ebook for essential reading rather than multiple printed copies, students believed that there should be the choice of both. Users of textbooks complained that there’s always a shortage of textbooks around exam time.
The library is popular among a lot of students, it has a diverse range of books, films and places to study. Most think that the online service is great and the electronic check out service is useful. However, students also find the poor wifi connection frustrating, the shorter opening times at the weekends annoying and the shortage of computers at busy times of the day difficult. To improve the library, students suggested having an area where drink hot drinks can be consumed and possibly food too, they also said that there should be computers specifically for people who just need to use them for five minutes for printing work off.