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Digital Literacies in Higher Education: Support Systems

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

Support Systems

Students were generally positive about support given by both the library and IT services, especially at an individual level (both in terms of face-to-face and remote enquiries/problem-solving).

However, students felt that there was scope for:

  • workshops to be more timely, supported by online alternatives and focused on audience level, e.g. beginner, intermediate and advanced;
  • workshops to extend to new digital tools, including open source (e.g. online reference managers, a range of search engines, etc.);
  • more support in developing a meta-level understanding of practices and processes for both study and use of digital tools and infrastructures (e.g. the 'why' of referencing as well as the 'how'); and
  • more support in managing information when confronted by a plurality of digital environments, e.g. how and when to perform digital annotation, note-taking, tracking activity).

Less formal support systems adopted by students were: themselves, family, friends, peers, colleagues, tutors, supervisors, library staff, online tutorials and websites (Google, Wikipedia, YouTube videos, although none mentioned TED).


picture of youtube video about journal article

'I've used ... YouTube... sometimes when I'm having trouble understanding something that a journal article or a book was saying, I'll go on YouTube and sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes there are, like professors and stuff that make short videos of the journal article that I'm using.'

Key Messages

1. Make printing, scanning and photocopying systems cost efficient.

2. Provide cloud storage for mobile access in a manner that acknowledges students' workflows.

3. Improve laptop support for international students (e.g. foreign characters on keyboards, etc).

4. Ensure tutorial/workshops are available off and online for both home and overseas students in a variety of media.

5. Recognise that digital literacies are now part of the academic literacies students need to study and embed these in the curriculum.


'And you've got the librarians work really well with the IT department and ... they're  really knowledgeable here I think that's really positve actually and they seem very, very sort of IT [oriented].'

picture of member of Library staff helping patron

'But even if you contact them from home ..., they're brilliant at replying and even spending the time on the phone talking you through it, you know. I can't get onto Athens, don't worry. They're brilliant, really good.'