UK students want better access to digital resources – survey

Thousands of students participated in the Ucas survey on digital resources

December 2, 2022
Source: iStock

Nearly all UK students think digital copies of their course books should be available when needed and without waiting lists, a survey suggests.

It also found that some students say their mental health would be improved by better access to digital resources.

In a new policy note, Laura Brassington of the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) analyses the findings of Ucas polling from October on student experiences of digitally enhancing learning.

Although digital learning is not a new phenomenon, it was accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic but is not without its challenges, she writes.

Of the more than 2,000 students surveyed, 95 per cent say digital copies of their course books should be available to them at the point of need, without waiting lists.

Roughly half of the respondents said they worry about being able to access course books through the library when needed, and 60 per cent of those said wider availability of digital resources would improve their mental health.

Three-quarters would “strongly” like to see digital copies of their course texts available without waiting lists, compared with just a third for physical copies.

“As higher education institutions navigate the balance between in-person and online provision, it is important to hear from the student population,” said Dr Brassington, policy manager at Hepi.

“We should listen to those who have voiced their concerns for their well-being and improve accessibility by making lecture recordings available for the duration of courses and by cutting waiting times for access to digital resources.”

Other recommendations made in the note include making a single easy-to-use digital learning platform available and providing digital recording of lectures – the most in-demand learning resource of all.

Robin Gibson, marketing director at Kortext, which partnered with Hepi to publish the report, said students recognise the benefits of digital learning and the flexibility they provide.

“Students are increasingly relying upon and are grateful for learning resource provision via the university library, while desiring ease of access with a consistent, intuitive user experience,” he said.

The Ucas poll found that just one in six students “always” or “often” buys their course books instead of borrowing them from the library.

Dr Brassington said that this could help explain why there has been a significant rise in UK higher education institutions’ library spending.

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Reader's comments (4)

I am surprised to see that students cannot get hold of digital copies since I have now switched to ebooks for my modules so there is no problem with waiting. The library at my university provides access at a level that enables all students to download the text. It is worth considering when looking for module texts.
Music to my ears. My daily mission for the last 20+ years at One example Why and how we do it:
Shame publishers do everything they can to prevent libraries from being able to provide these resources. £16,000 a year for access to one textbook is not uncommon - and some publishers absolutely refuse to licence to libraries at all! This is an enormous challenge for libraries and something we have yet been able to get government attention on! Check out #ebookSOS for more information.
"Robin Gibson, marketing director at Kortext, which partnered with Hepi to publish the report, said students recognise the benefits of digital learning and the flexibility they provide." Cui Bono? A policy note/report, co-published and probably comissioned, by the marketing chief of a company making its money from providing digital copies of textbooks. Yeah right...LOL Besides this, I agree with the above comments that the main bottleneck for easy access to digital materials are not universities or libraries but publishers and their exessive pricing and restrictive licencing models. This study is barking up the wrong tree. Yet, one cannot be surprised if one looks into to the "corporate partners" of HEPI, counting amongst that list leading publishers themselves (and of course Kortext and wait, THE too). "Thinktanks" and NGOs of this kind are part of the problem and not a solution because they frequently obscure structural issues with this kind of reductive and simplistic policy advice, not only in HE.


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