Report: Universities must do better with digital resources

A new study aims to shed light on lack of university-provided digital media resources; negligence of copyright compliance.

There is a major disconnect between student and faculty digital literacy perceptions, and institutions must provide better access to, and knowledge about, digital resources to improve learning outcomes. At least, that’s what new findings suggest.

As part of its inaugural 2016 State of Digital Media in Higher Education Report, digital media resource provider VideoBlocks gathered insights online in February this year from more than 300 current educators, students and administrators in higher education, and presented key findings on critical topics such as digital literacy, digital media usage and access, and copyright compliance. [More on methodology can be found in the report.]

With an exponential increase of digital media production and consumption in the past decade, it has become imperative that higher education institutions prepare their students to be digitally literate in order to help them meet the new standards of 21st century careers and communication, argues the report.

Thus, it is important to establish how educators can best incorporate digital media resources and digital literacy competencies into their courses. The report urges universities to close this digital literacy gap by providing faculty with the proper digital media resources for achieving these goals.

“Digital media has become increasingly important in higher education, as digital literacy is a key skill for graduates entering the modern job market,” said VideoBlocks CEO TJ Leonard. “We wanted real, valid data, and we weren’t just looking for a marketing vehicle. This survey was a direct result of our experiences with a number of different universities, faculty and instructional devices. There was an anecdotal buy-in to digital media, but no hard data around it and a mismatch of perceptions. So we looked at a really wide swath of topics in order to establish a link between learning outcomes and digital media.”

(Next page: Key findings in digital literacy, usage and access, and copyright compliance)

They’re Not Digitally Literate, But We Are!

One of the report’s main findings is that students and faculty do not perceive the other group’s digital literacy to be as high as they think themselves to be. For instance, 45 percent of students consider themselves highly digitally literate, while only 14 percent of faculty agrees that their students are highly digitally literate on average. Similarly, 49 percent of faculty consider themselves as highly digitally literate, while only 23 percent of their students say that their instructors are highly digitally literate on average.

Digital Media is a Good Thing

Something that students and their teachers agree on, though, is that digital media positively impacts the learning experience when used effectively. In fact, 91 percent of faculty say that including digital media in course materials and lectures improves student learning outcomes, with 76 percent of students agreeing that multimedia-enhanced lectures are more engaging.

Lack of Resources a Major Roadblock

However, one of the biggest roadblocks for educators and students trying to build digital literacy practices in the classroom is a lack of university-provided resources to digital media. While 20 percent of faculty and 32 percent of students source their course-related digital media through university provided resources, 44 percent of faculty and 30 percent of students rated their overall access to digital media through university-provided resources as only average or below average.

As a result, 23 percent of faculty responded that they have not assigned any projects requiring students to create or include multimedia in the past year, and only about one-fifth reported using digital media in all of their lectures, with the same fraction rarely or never using digital media in lectures.

This lack of usage is a major contributor to the aforementioned disconnect between student and faculty digital literacy perceptions, says the report, yet half of faculty and a third of students agree that they think universities should be doing more to provide access.

“Schools are making huge investments in infrastructure, yet they’re cutting at the efficacy of their own institutions by not providing content for students to use in their new digital centers or on the cloud,” said Leonard. “Schools should be doing everything possible to prepare students for the 21st century economy, and it’s hard to imagine that without access to digital media. They have to make resources available and give students consistent access to them in the classroom, the library, and off campus to get the full value out of digital media.”

Copyright Still a Problem

One of the other major topics detailed by the report was the mismatch in perceptions and lack of enforcement of copyright policies. Students and faculty again came into conflict on the issue of copyright compliance. While 31 percent of students rated themselves as “very or extremely knowledgeable about copyright and fair use,” only 5 percent of faculty rated their students similarly, and 23 percent thought their students were not knowledgeable about proper compliance at all.

Also, while 32 percent of faculty say that their university doesn’t properly enforce digital copyright policies, 21 percent conversely never verify copyright compliance in their own students’ work. Students follow suit with only 45 percent checking their own compliance half of the time or less, and only 13 percent stated they use copyright protected digital media for coursework.

“Most students take no time to validate the copyright of the content that they use,” said Leonard. “Piracy is not a marketable job skill…but teachers don’t have the tools to police it. They can either spend all their time on that, or they can worry about teaching their students. So it’s become institutionalized bad behavior that’s primarily been driven by the lack of low-cost, legal options. Historically, there’s been no good solution for universities looking to provide free content. That’s why VideoBlocks for Education was designed to be an easy way for universities to reinforce the ethics of compliance in copyrighted material.”

To see the entire report, and for more information about VideoBlocks’ services, click here.

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