The EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR) made available its 2005 study on students and information technology. The primary findings relate to students’ preferences for the use of technology in their courses, and their is some good information about the impact of course management systems. While use of library resources is a lesser aspect of the study there is some data offered that I believe provides some cause for optimism among academic librarians.
While student use of the Internet to support coursework (again, no real way of knowing what “Internet” means for our students) is nearly universal at 98% reporting it, use of library resources to complete a course assignment comes in at a healthy 88%. Maybe the Internet is not eating our lunch after all. However, I would think the difference between freshman (86%) and seniors (89%) would be more significant owing to library instruction that occurs during the course of their education. Clearly we have more work to do.
Increases from 2004 in both the use of library resources for assignments (up 4%) and weekly hours spent using library resources (up 5.2% – but the majority report using library resources less than one hour per week overall in 2005) are a cause for optimism, and suggest that academic librarians’ efforts to promote user education and faculty collaboration may in fact be having a positive impact on student research. The report provides some concrete evidence to counter numerous mass media reports that students simply consult Internet search engines when doing their research. They may prefer to consult the Internet search engines first (anecdotal evidence only – not a part of the report), but they clearly do not use those resources exclusively.