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Digital Literacies in Higher Education: Complex Contexts

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

Complex Contexts

A key and common feature of students’ engagement with and orientations towards digital technologies is that their ‘study spaces’ are becoming increasingly distributed and at times ad hoc, whatever their mode or level of study.

This shift (away from the locus of the institution into the ‘cloud’) has important implications for institutions and libraries in terms of the ways in which resources are shared and accessed, especially on personal, mobile and handheld digital devices which may or may not have wi-fi connectivity in open spaces (e.g. parks and public transport).

Students’ distributed study practices also focus on links between home, workplace, public spaces and learning at a distance (e.g. other countries). In all of these, elements of digital infrastructure such as permissions and bandwith were raised as potential issues by students.


picture of home working set up

 'Actually I've always been more comfortable working in my home instead of the library. I don't know why. It has been so in my home country as well. I like working in my home. It's probably the music is a big issue; I always listen to music when studying and I like to bar out the world which is not possible in the library ....'

Key Messages

1.  Recognise that students are increasingly studying on the go -- in the bathroom, on the train, in the park -- and mobile access needs to match learning in new spaces.

2.  Acknowledge that mobile use of the digital library is increasing and becoming part of the students' learning and research workflow.

3.  Ensure that the way in which students access resources remotely mimic the ease with which they are able to access digital resources internally.

4.  Consider that permissions and bandwidth have implications on how students can access resources remotely and ensure a parity of service for all students.


picture of e reader in a bathroom

 'I read some materials for my course in the bathroom.'