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The use of online digital resources and educational digital libraries in higher education

The use of online digital resources and educational digital libraries in higher education



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Int J Digit LibrDOI 10.1007/s00799-008-0036-y
The use of online digital resources and educational digital librariesin higher education
Flora McMartin
Ellen Iverson
Alan Wolf 
Joshua Morrill
Glenda Morgan
Cathryn Manduca
© Springer-Verlag 2008
This paper summarizes results from a nationalsurvey of 4,678 respondents, representing 119 institutions of higher education in the United States regarding their use of digital resources for scholarly purposes. This paper presentsthe following results: (1) demographics commonly used inhigher education to categorize populations such as institu-tion type or level of teaching experience could not reliablypredict use of online digital resources, (2) valuing onlinedigital resources corresponds with only higher levels of usefor certain types of digital resources, (3) lack of time was asignificant barrier to use of materials while, paradoxically,respondents indicated that they used them because they savetime, (4) respondents did not tend to intentionally look to theInternet as a trusted resource for learning about teaching.
Digital library
User study
1 Introduction
This article summarizes aggregate and summary resultsfrom a national survey of higher education instructors in the
F. McMartin (
)Broad-based Knowledge, Richmond, CA, USAe-mail: flora.mcmartin@gmail.comE. Iverson
C. ManducaCarleton College, Northfield, MN, USAA. Wolf University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, WI, USAJ. MorrillMorrill Solutions, Madison, WI, USAG. MorganGeorge Mason University, Fairfax, VA, USA
United States aimed at understanding the uses, motivations,and barriers surrounding faculty members’ and instructors’use of educational digital libraries.
In addition, it examines discovery and use of educationaldigital resources within the context of the growing desire onthe part of faculty members and instructors to use them, andan increasing difficulty in their ability to find, access anduse them. The National Science Education Digital Library(NSDL) aptly described the situation faculty members andinstructors face:The rapid acceleration of information available via theinternetmakeslocatinghigh-quality,accurate,andtrulyuseful educational resources challenging for teachersand learners. Educators, in particular, need efficientand reliable methods to discover and use science andmath materials that will help them meet the demandsof instruction, assessment, and professional develop-ment.[39] A growing movement is evolving to address the needs of faculty members and instructors wishing to find and useonline digital materials. Since the mid 1990s the National
For the purposes of this discussion we use the term “digital library”broadly, aligning our view with that of the Lynch and Garcia-Molinadefinition: [digital libraries are] “systems providing a community of users with coherent access to a large, organized repository of infor-mation and knowledge”[31]. This definition is sufficiently broad to include collections that formally identify themselves as digital libraries(i.e., the National Engineering Education Digital Library or NEEDS—The National Engineering Education Digital Library), those that areassociated within the Open Educational Resource movement (e.g.,OpenCourseWare sites such as MIT or Utah State University) or arecampus-supported repositories or members of multi-campus consortia.According to this definition, commercial entities may also be a collec-tion, for example, JSTOR and the growing collection of materials heldin the iTunes University website sponsored by Apple.
F. McMartin et al.
Science Foundation (NSF) has devoted over 150 milliondollars to support this effort, particularly for the purposesof improving STEM education at all educational levels. Inaddition to the NSF, private foundations such as AndrewW. Mellon Foundation and the William and Flora HewlettFoundation haveexpended hundredsofmillionsofdollarsinsupport of the Open Education Resource movement, whichaims to provide open online access to online digital learningresourcesworldwide.Thismovement,ledbytheOpenCour-seware Consortium, has grown to over 120 members in lessthan 3years[29]. Along with the development of such large projects, there are rising numbers of consortia of institutionsand individual U.S. colleges and universities investing in thecreation and support of “local” educational digital librariesand repositories in support of teaching and research. Theselocal efforts, supported by projects like the DSpace Fede-ration[41] attest to the growing recognition that it will be necessary to support the development and use of online digi-tal resources in higher education.Questions about users and how they use digital materialshave become central given the high cost of the developmentand maintenance of educational digital libraries. This in turnhas prompted discussions of sustainability models for theselibraries [23,37]. To justify this investment, the actual use and impact of the contents of the educational digital librarieshave become increasingly important to stakeholders. For allthese reasons several questions have come to the fore: Whatdo faculty members do with the online digital resources theyfind in educational digital libraries? Do faculty value theseresources? How do they use them for teaching purposes?Whatarethebarrierstotheiruseofbothresourcesandeduca-tional digital libraries? What, if any, meaningful differencesare there between groups of users based on demographicvariables?
2 Prior work
To date, research attempting to answer questions regardingthe use of educational digital libraries by faculty membersand instructors in higher education in the United States orinternationally, has with a few exceptions, been relativelysmall in scale, consisting of case studies or surveys of usersof individual libraries or small samples of non-users withina specific discipline.From the United Kingdom there is a growing body of lite-rature regarding digital repositories and collections, inclu-ding analyses of the ways that faculty and instructors usethese services. These studies tend to focus on institutionalrepositories and the emphasis is on examining behaviorsassociated with contributing to repositories rather than loo-king at usage in teaching or more broadly in regards to aca-demic careers or workflows. In general terms, these studiesfound that there was less use of digital collections that mighthave been anticipated, but that use of repositories was posi-tively associated with the development of an e-learning stra-tegy on the part of the institution [7]. Respondents’ reportedfactors limiting their contributing behavior included,being concerned about copyright issues and whether or notthe materials they find will work with other technologies,such as course management systems [44]. Peer review of materials in a repository was seen as a positive motivationalfactor encouraging use [3,4]. These same issues were also identified by Uijtdehaage, et al. [46] study of medical schoolfaculty in the United States.Other research has focused on the use of educational digi-tal libraries and collections. For the most part these haveexamined usage of a single collection or library and wereassociated with searching behavior rather than adoption oradaptationofmaterialsforteachingorotherprofessionalpur-poses. For example, Borgman[9] found that faculty mem- bers in geography at a large research university conductedlogical, methodological searches for online teaching or lear-ning materials much like they do when conducting researchin their disciplines. The faculty members in this study weremoreabletoarticulatesearchstrategiesforresearchpurposesthan for teaching purposes. In contrast, Chang’s 2004 survey[12] of post-secondary and K-12 educators who were regis-tered users of the Bioscience Education Network found thatnearly a third of these respondents discovered the site fromanother web page and only 18% reported finding it througha search engine.When examining what users are seeking Manduca et al.[33]foundthatgeosciencefacultymemberspreferredtolearnabout teaching within the context of the content they teach,and that their teaching behaviors were highly influenced bytrusted colleagues. They confirmed their findings by compa-ringresultsfromasmallsetoffacultymembers(8interviewsand 21 cognitive walkthroughs) using the web to search forteachingmaterials,tothefindingsfromasurveyof5,700U.S.geoscience faculty members [32]. The evaluation of theMITOpenCourseWare collection [11], while similar to the stu-dies described above, was a large research effort involvingboth surveys and interviews to learn more about the use of MIT-OCW materials. Unlike the educational digital libraryprojects that hold primarily learning objects that address asingle concept or set of concepts, the OCW site contains theartifactsassociatedwithanindividualcourse,e.g.,thecoursesyllabus,assignments,lectureslides,etc.Byfar,themajorityof their users are self-described self learners (49%), 32% arestudents and 16% describe themselves as educators. 46% of the educators who used it reported reusing OCW materialsby adopting or combining them with other materials. 26%reported using the OCW site for course planning purposes,to prepare to teach a class (22%) or to enhance their ownpersonal knowledge about a subject or topic (19%).
Online digital resources and educational digital libraries
Studies of the use of educational digital libraries andcollections often evaluate the quantity of use and usability of particular libraries. These studies for example, within NSDLcollections, have been conducted mainly for formative pur-poses and tend to be unpublished [5]. Additionally, many of these studies depended on usage statistics alone to addressquestions such as: how many unique visitors come to a site?What paths do visitors follow when exploring a site? Whatare the most popular times for visiting a site or what are thegeographical locations of users [25,26,36]? While studies such as these hint at how the library is used they give verylittle insight into how the contents are used. Another relati-vely large set of usage studies is more generally associatedwith studies of user interface. These studies tend to examinehow users interact with a site and have been conducted pri-marily to test the effectiveness of the site design [8,45,47]. Other studies, well described in Bishop, Van House andButtenfield’s examination of digital library evaluation prac-tices [8], tend to rely on the case study method and ethnogra-phic methods. While important additions to our knowledgeabout use of a specific educational digital library, these stu-dies provide limited insight into larger use patterns geogra-phically, or by type of user, e.g., faculty member, attorney,member of a political action group, etc. They do not addsignificantly to our understanding of their use by the profes-soriate in the U.S., nor to this population’s knowledge aboutor understanding about educational digital libraries, both of which, are major factors that motivated the research reportedin this article.Therearestudiesthatexaminetheuseofeducationaldigi-tal libraries or collections by a larger population of facultymembers and instructors. In 2004, Harley et al., surveyedfaculty members and instructors in the humanities and socialsciences at California universities, colleges and communitycolleges to learn about their use of digital resources in tea-ching and to some extent the rest of their professional lives.Early in their research process they found when conductinga series of focus groups, that faculty members and instruc-tors, though users of a wide variety of digital resources didnot understand the formalized concept of a “collection” or“digital library”.This finding was so stark that Harley et al. used a frame-work for the next phase of the survey research that avoidedthe language typically used to describe digital libraries, e.g.,“collectionsor“libraries”.Insteadthesurveylanguagecen-tered on the use of online digital resources that they defined,for example, as images and visual materials to more sophis-ticated learning objects (e.g., simulations, animations, etc.)including those considered “freeor “openand those thatareproprietary.Theirresultssuggestthatfacultyuseavarietyof these resources both to help improve their students’ lear-ningandasprimarysourcesmaterialsintheirteaching.Moreinterestingly, however, is why they chose not to use digitalresources. Respondents reported as their primary reason fornon-use that digital resources did not support their teachingapproach. Other barriers to use included, lack of time as wellas obstacles such as the inability to “find, manage, maintainand reuse them in new contexts” [24].Green[21]conductedamulti-methodstudyofhowfacultyat liberal arts colleges in the U.S. found and used digitalimages in their teaching. The researchers received surveyresponses from 404 faculty members at 33 liberal arts insti-tutions and completed semi-structured interviews with 296faculty staff and administrators across all disciplines. Theirfindings, which support Harley et al.’s research, revealedthat faculty used digital images either from their own col-lections or from what they found using a search engine suchas Google. Faculty appeared to have little awareness of digi-tal image collections or libraries. However they were moreaware of and used educational digital libraries more fre-quently than they did the licensed collections in their owninstitutionallibraries.Amajorityoffacultyinthestudy(over75%)reportedthattheuseofdigitalimageshadchangedhowthey taught. Faculty perceived a range of barriers to greaterand more effective use of digital images including: inade-quate tools for aggregating and managing digital images,issues over copyright, inadequate technical support, lack of time to locate and learn how to use digital images and insuf-ficient access to collections of images [21].
3 Study method
In this article, we report on the results of a national surveyof U.S. faculty members and instructors regarding the useand non-use of online digital resources. The purpose of thisstudywastoprovideadescriptionofusebyfacultymembersand instructors at the national level and unrestricted to anyone educational digital library or collection. This researchstudy delved deeply into the barriers to use most frequentlymentionedintheliterature[17,23]suchas,timeandresource constraints, lack of access to high quality materials, lack of adaptabilityofthematerialsthemselves,andintellectualpro-perty.Focus groups were used to gather preliminary data toinform the design of the survey instrument used to surveyUS faculty members and instructors. Using grounded theoryprocedures [20] we analyzed and identified the underlyingthemes that emerged from the focus group data. Because of the diverse nature of colleges and universities in the samplefor the intended survey, we conducted 11 focus groups witha total of 60 participants. Two groups were conducted atone research university, one at a community college, threewere conducted at primarily teaching universities, one groupeach at two historically black colleges, one group at a libe-ralartscollegeandtwogroupsattheMERLOTInternational

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