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Accessing and Using Course Materials

Understanding the Challenges of Faculty and Students

The accelerated shift to online learning has placed an additional burden on institutions and faculty to adapt course materials to the needs and preferences of students, while continuing to focus affordable learning and resource diversification initiatives.

In a recent report commissioned by Ex Libris and conducted by Alterline, the findings uncover trends and challenges arising from the transition to online learning and highlights opportunities for institutions and libraries to support faculty and students. The study looks at how course resources are being selected, managed, accessed, and used today in the higher education industry. The trends highlighted in the report reflect the new emphasis on remote teaching and learning.

The report presents findings from a survey of 103 faculty members and 257 students across a range of disciplines. Some of the key findings from the report include:

  • Faculty members are bearing the administrative burden of managing course resources. Only 15% of faculty members reported that they receive help from a teaching assistant, instructional designer, or someone else in managing tasks related to course materials.
  • Academic libraries are underused by the faculty in the search for new course materials. Faculty members use web-search results, recommendations from peers, and other sources more frequently than the library to find new course materials.
  • Faculty members are using a diverse range of resources. Links to online resources and PDF files of books, book chapters, and articles are regularly used by faculty for their courses. However, resource lists still contain numerous references to physical books and textbooks, perhaps suggesting a lack of alternative online texts.
  • Measures of student engagement with course materials are lacking. Faculty members continue to use mostly traditional methods of monitoring student engagement, such as quizzes, tests, and the level of class participation, and tend to pay little attention to statistics on students’ use of course materials.
  • The move to online learning has created new pressure on the faculty to assist students in accessing course materials online. Key difficulties involve finding digital versions of physical resources, managing broken hyperlinks, and obtaining resources that are behind paywalls. 
  • Faculty members are making an effort to reduce the cost of course materials. The report shows that 64% of faculty members have revised their choice of course resources because of cost. A substantial minority of faculty members (34%) went one step further, selecting only those course materials that are free for students.
  • Libraries have an opportunity to increase their involvement in teaching and learning by applying their expertise. Faculty members are primarily interested in obtaining the library’s support for the purchase, licensing, and digitization of course materials; the reduction of costs for students; and copyright clearance when necessary.

Despite the challenging circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the transition to online learning has presented an opportunity for the faculty to be creative in delivering materials and meeting student needs. Faculty members have done a tremendous job to ensure that learning continues at a high standard. Nevertheless, much more can be done to support the faculty and students, including simplifying the management of, and access to, course resources and strengthening the collaboration of faculty members and librarians to reduce the cost of materials.

This research highlights that quite a few areas of teaching and learning are impacted by the pandemic. While much of the administrative burden of managing course materials lays on faculty members, they have shown high levels of dedication to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on student success. There are clear opportunities for bolstering intra-institutional support and raising the profile of services and expertise that faculty can rely on.

To read the full report: download here.  

If you’re interested in providing affordable learning for your students and achieve resource diversification initiatives for your library, reach out to us at [email protected] for more information.

About Ex Libris

Ex Libris, a ProQuest company, is a leading global provider of cloud-based SaaS solutions that enable institutions and their individual users to create, manage, and share knowledge. In close collaboration with its customers and the broader community, Ex Libris develops creative solutions that increase library productivity, maximize the impact of research activities, enhance teaching and learning, and drive student mobile engagement. Ex Libris serves over 7,500 customers in 90 countries. For more information, see our website and join us on LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

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