Schools Going Digital Technology's Impact on the Way Students Learn, Interact, and Access Content

A 2014 EDUCAUSE survey reported that 86% of undergraduates owned a smartphone in 2014. The same study also reported that 47% of students owned a tablet. In higher academia, mobile device ownership is high among students, as is ownership of personal computers.

A lot of universities have adopted digital systems and solutions in hopes to increase student academic engagement in and out of the classroom:

• Virtual Learning Environments / Course Management Systems

A management system we're all familiar with, Blackboard is used by a lot of universities, including WSU.
Similar to iClickers, Top Hat is an online platform that allows instructors to receive real-time responses to quizzes and polls from their students, given they have an internet connection and a device.

• Digital Subscription-based Services and Databases

Many universities extend access to subscription-based services or databases and charge students for these privileges as part of their tuition and fees. Here at WSU, students and faculty have access to WSU's SearchIt, through which they can access multiple subscription-based databases like EBL or EBSCO.

Some schools take it even further. With bookless libraries.

After a $55 million renovation, the University of Michigan reopened its Taubman Health Sciences Library in August of 2015. The library relocated its 518,942-volume collection to an off-campus location.

No longer populated by shelves upon shelves of books, the Taubman Health Sciences Library now hosts wide spaces for gathering, meeting, and collaborating.

Another institution, Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, MA, did away completely with its 40,000 book collection. The Fisher-Watkins Library digitized the books, gave them away, and has since subscribed to EB Library (EBL) for its online database of books.

Demolishing the stacks! OHMYGAW!
Like Taubman, the Fisher-Watkins Library's space is dedicated to spaces for mingling and collaborating between students, peers, and faculty. The library was renovated with a cafe, pictured right.

This trend of bookless libraries is relatively new, but even traditional shelved libraries are turning to digital solutions to digitize their print collections.

Sort'a like what the CDSC does here at WSU.

Brewster Kahle, digital librarian and founder of the Internet Archive, digitizing a book.

Curious about whether students here at WSU would be receptive to the idea of a bookless library, I took to Terrell Mall as well as a few other locations around campus to ask students about their library use. I conducted an informal survey of about 25 students. I asked them the four following questions:

1. Do you use the Holland/Terrell Library's spaces?

2. Have you ever gone through the bookshelves to find a book yourself?

3. Within the past three months, have you checked out at least one physical book or reference item?

4. Within the past three months, have you used an ebook or digital textbook?

The results of my survey tallied up:

These results didn't come as much of a surprise to me, since the majority responses closely matched my own library use as a student.

Holland Terrell Library. Photo credits to Washington State Library on Flickr.

I frequent Holland Terrell Library very often when I need a workspace that's free of distractions. Even though I never need to consult a librarian or find a book, being in a library setting helps me psych myself up to be productive and focused.

Not once in my two years here at WSU have I ever been bothered to venture into the library stacks (except to take this photo, aha). SearchIt is where it's at for me. I do all my research with the help of digital texts and journal articles. A lot of my friends and classmates do the same.

I prefer ebooks, digital texts and PDFs over print. I can easily take my iPad with me to class and not have to worry about bag space, weight or forgetting a book. And most electronic books are cross-compatible, meaning I can view them on my iPad or my laptop. Super convenient, unlike print.

Although the concept of bookless libraries is in many ways impractical at present, I definitely think there's a niche for bookless libraries.

In summary, some of the ways universities are trying increase student academic engagement include transitioning to:

• Virtual Learning Environments / Course Management Systems

• Digital Subscription-based Services and Databases

• Libraries with less reliance on print reference and more reliance on digital catalogues

Created By
Tou Moua
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Created with images by papirontul - "e-book e-reader tolinos shine"

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