Now that students (and their families!) are expecting to pay more for higher education, how have their attitudes to the delivery, format and cost of learning resources changed? As part of a one day conference organised by the Publishers Association, a panel of students shared their thoughts, experiences and wish-lists. They had interesting things to say to academic publishers, university programme directors, librarians and lecturers.
Key messages from the student panel
- Too much information – students are often overwhelmed by the amount of information, across a variety of formats, that they are attempting to manage. Although access to information is important, the critical skills to analyse and filter are greatly in demand
- There is an overwhelming need for information analysis skills
- Not all students want e-everything. Several panel members expressed their love of the hard copy text book. However, another called reading anything in print format ‘a chore’. Most students recognised that a mixture of formats is necessary or even desirable
- Overseas students sometimes need help in transferring to the UK model of education (especially if they come from an educational culture where they learn by rote). Teaching tools for overseas students would be greatly appreciated.
- Students would love, shorter chapters, chapter summaries, key learning points, revision aids etc.
Challenges and opportunities for academic librarians
The library is a trusted partner for many of the students. They rely on librarians to help them develop their information skills, to help with information quality assurance and to guide them to useful resources beyond the reading lists. When it comes to recommended reading, students are often asking students in the years above them for their honest opinions on reading list resources. At the same time, only one student reported that she was ever asked for her opinion on learning materials. Several students reported that they would be uncomfortable with criticising material/text books written by their own lecturers. Institutional librarians could perhaps help facilitate quality control and student feedback of learning materials and recommended reading.
Because of the cost of their education, students expect their learning resources to be made available by their institutions/ libraries – and think most of them should be free. They should also be available in any format they can. Libraries and publishers still have some way to go to ensure that e-textbooks are available to meet this demand.
The panel of students, from the LSE and the University of Greenwich, formed part of the Publisher’s Association one day conference ‘Students at the Heart of the system’ held in London on 21 November 2011