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Digital Literacies in Higher Education: Time Pressures

Key messages from the JISC-funded project focussing on postgraduate students at the Institute of Education

Time Pressures

Time was one of the key influences on students’ engagement with digital technologies – it was their most limited resource.

  • Institutional digital resources and access were frequently felt to be too slow, complex, regulatory or unreliable (in an infrastructure sense) for efficient and fast working.
  • Students would turn to easier, more open avenues for access, e.g. Google Scholar instead of Library Catalogues or Databases, and Zotero instead of EndNote.
  • Support workshops offered by the institution/library were sometimes felt to take up valuable time, perceived not to be timely or sufficiently fit for purpose (too high/broad a level).
  • Students believed library workshops were delivered at a time that suited institution, rather than students' need.


'The library has been really very supportive. I mean, sometimes I think to myself it they weren't around, I don't know where I would be. I often find that they're probably the more, kind of, approachable staff that you can just go to ... they give up their time to really explain things to you ...even when you've sat there and just still can't work your way through it. They're very patient and they really do take their time, which is really reasonable.'

picture of member of library staff and patron

Key Messages

1. Ensure the availability of online tutorials (interactive video if necessary) to fit in with the needs of students - timeliness and relevancy being of utmost importance.

2. Embed digital literacies (including information literacy - to be able to search, find, access, evaluate and use information in an ethical manner) into the academic curriculum in order for it to be relevant to the student's learning and to counter the issue of the lack of time.  

3. Ensure support services (Library, IT Academic Writing Centre) collaborate so that there is a clear understanding of students' needs and a lack of duplication in training content.   

4. Establish pre-orientation sessions (on and offline) to relieve time pressure at the start of the academic year or course.

5. Ensure that systems are designed for maximum efficiency so that, for example, students' workflows are given priority and the user can be taken to the relevant point without having to click numerous times or use multiple logins. This access should appear seamless from both inside the institution and remotely.


picture of workshop and students

'Well, it probably took longer than necessary because I did what I usually do and, sort of, dismissed the...workshops. they tell you … how to go about research, dismiss that as being I didn’t need that, I can figure it out.  So it took probably about six months longer than necessary and… it was... basically through trial and error and I now realise, being a bit better at it and doing another degree, that I probably missed a lot.'