We conducted an online survey to find out which resources students use and how they use them.
1. Even though this was the survey with the least respondents, we did manage to get students from courses we wanted. Many of the participants studied Psychology (34%), followed by Geography (10%) and Law (10%). Other courses and corresponding percentages can be seen on the graph.
2. Only 1 of the correspondents was a postgraduate, the other 49 were undergraduates. 4 were in their 1st year, 30 were in their 2nd, and 15 were in their 3rd.
3. How often do you use the following types of digital media for your studies?
There were four different digital media types; Ebooks, Online videos, Podcasts and Catch Up TV. Students were asked to select how often they use each digital media type from: frequently, occasionally, rarely and never. The most well used digital media type appears to be Ebooks, with 21 out of 50 students using them frequently and 16 students using them occasionally. This was followed by Online videos which include Youtube videos and TED talks with 29 students either using them frequently or occasionally. Podcasts were the least well used with 41 students out of 50 either never using them (25) or using them rarely (16). In my experience I have not used Podcasts at university as lecturers have not recommended them and I have also not come across them on student forums or Facebook. Catch Up TV (such as documentaries on iPlayer) is also less popular than Ebooks and Online videos with only 6 students saying they use it frequently and 34 students using them either rarely (14) or never (20). Again, Catch Up TV is rarely recommended by my Geography lecturers or seminar teachers unless it is to give a general overview of certain topics such as the BBC series “Empire” which related to a module on colonialism in First year.
4. How do you hear about these items?
Students were then asked to select how they hear about these resources from a drop-down menu where multiple answers could be selected. The most popular answers chosen were using Google or other search engines (37 answers), followed by using Library search (34 answers) and recommendations from tutors (30) or friends (24). This does not surprise me as these are usually the ways I hear about Ebooks and Online videos. I would generally listen to recommendations from tutors first and then follow this up by using Library search to access Ebooks, journals and articles. In my subject field friends are more likely than tutors to recommend Online videos such as TED talks and Youtube explanations of topics. I found that friends in higher years are good at recommending Ebooks, some of which are far easier to read than what the lecturer recommends. Friends who have already completed modules I am currently studying have also recommended Ebooks, podcasts and Online videos to me.
Alternatively, all the digital media types can be found by using Google and other search engines, although this may give you a very wide range of resources, some which cannot be referenced in marked coursework (such as Wikipedia sources and other potentially less credible videos or podcasts). Perhaps for this reason hearing about these items from a reading list was a popular answer to this question (27 answers). Using the reading list for each module to find digital media resources ensures that you can reference them in marked coursework and exams. This is because the lecturer for each module sets the reading list and will include core readings from Ebooks accessible through Library search and the VLE. For my subject however, other digital media types are not included on our reading lists and I therefore hear about them from Google or Facebook (Facebook was mentioned 13 times in answers to this question).
Finally, Twitter, Reddit and blogs were mentioned in 6 answers to this question. However, I have not found any relevant digital media types on these outlets and use Twitter and Reddit primarily for leisurely use. As I have mentioned before, it is important for me to find digital media sources I can reference in marked work and currently only Ebooks appear to fit this criteria and are heard about from tutors, library search and Google.
5. How important are the following criteria in helping you to decide whether to use a certain piece of digital media?
As the pie charts show, students are very influenced by their tutor’s recommendations and by the credibility of the source when choosing material for their studies. They are reasonably influenced by the length of material and whether a friend or someone on social media has recommended it. The importance of the professional appearance of the material varies between everyone.
6. Do you prefer to learn using a particular type of media?
11 respondents answered yes, that they did have a preference for a particular type of media. The remaining 39 answered no, suggesting that for these particular students format is not the biggest determining factor in shaping decisions about what resources to use.
6.a. What type of media do you prefer to use and why?
Of those 11 respondents who answered that they had a preference for a particular type of media, 6 specified that video was the format they preferred, making it the most sought after (for those who have a preference). The reasons given for preferring video included them being “fun” and “different” with 2 participants commenting that they find it easier to learn and remember information delivered in this way. 1 of these 6 students qualified their preference for video, explaining that they prefer whatever is recommended by their tutor: “I enjoy online videos as it is easy to learn and remember, and whatever has been recommended by a tutor as I can trust it is relevant”.
2 other respondents answered that they preferred online journal articles but did not give a particular reason why. 1 respondent answered that they prefer written sources for reasons of “credibility and reputation”. 1 respondent went even further, explaining that not only do they prefer written sources but specifically that they prefer e-books for what can be interpreted as reasons of convenience: “E-books as they are often free or cheap and save me carrying heavy books – I can just use a computer or Kindle”.
1 final respondent answered that they had a preference for Google Scholar which would presumably mean a preference for digital media, but did not specify a particular type beyond that.
7. Do you use social media for your studies?
Close call, but the majority of students (54%) reported using social media for their studies.
7.a. With regard to your studies, what do you use social media for?
Participants use social media for different reasons. The most common reason was for group work, followed by keeping up-to-date with general discussion. They use it to see what their classmates/friends are doing and to follow organisations connected to their field of study. According to students social media is also useful to find resources and finding out what additional events are on. Under other a person specified conducted a survey. We definitely agree with his statement as we also find social media to be the easiest and fastest way to get participants.
7.b. Which social media platforms do you use for your studies?
The most common answers with regards to social media platforms were Facebook and Study Direct (VLE) forum. Facebook is always useful since everyone constantly follows news feed and you can get the answer in minutes. Because of notifications everyone gets on their mobile devices it is also the easiest and fastest way to contact your friends (either about your studies or anything else).
Forums on Study Direct are very useful when it comes to having questions about lectures or course-related material. It is regularly checked by lecturers, course convenors and tutors. Answers you get there are definitely reliable.
Other platforms used are Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google+, Pinterest and Reddit.
8. Any other comments?
Only 1 respondent left an additional comment, stating “I usually watch lectures that are recorded and uploaded to Study Direct [the Sussex VLE]”.