Online technology has changed the way individuals, teams and organisations engage with each other for teaching, learning and research.
Alison Le Cornu and I proposed that we start to think about internet users as having ‘visitor’ or ‘resident’ motivations to engage online depending on context - dipping in and out of the web without leaving a social trace or going online to be present with other people. We’re interested in how students and staff fit into this framework and how understanding the ways in which they use the web can increase engagement and enhance the educational experience.
Having cogitated over the influence and impact of the web on education for a number of years I find I’m often drawn back to the notion of credibility. The decisions that students and staff make around their use of the web and which elements of their online practice they chose to make visible in formal contexts is often tied to how they perceive the credibility or authenticity of what they discover, create and share.
For me what is really significant here is that credibility and quality or relevance are not always closely linked. Learners are still very much tied to classic credibility signifiers, such as the physical book. One of the major challenges for any group which engages learners is coming to an understanding of exactly how they use the web in their studies and how they perceive the web relates to traditional forms of scholarship. To put it simply we don’t have a clear picture of how students search for and evaluate resources or how they go about collaborating online.
Building a clearer picture
For some time now people have been asking me where they can read about the findings of the visitors and residents (V&R) project (a partnership between Jisc, the University of Oxford, OCLC Research and the University of North Carolina, Charlotte) - or if there are any V&R-related resources available. I’m very happy to say that as part of the Jisc Digital Festival we will be launching a detailed guide (infoKit) to evaluating services (built and hosted by Jisc infoNet) based on the findings of the project and two new V&R videos (one outlining the V&R idea and one exploring the shifting notion of credibility in an educational context) created with Jisc Netskills to support an evolving workshop format.
The infoKit gives some background on the V&R idea and the longitudinal project which underpins the themes in the kit such as ‘The Learning Black Market’ and ‘Think Less – Find More’. It’s designed to give people in the higher education sector an insight into the behaviours and motivations of learners as they go about using the web. The infoKit positions the services that universities provide in relation to the wider web and considers the relationship between the formal institution and online culture. I hope it will act as a good ‘sister’ resource to the digital literacies infoKit which draws on work which I have been involved in in various guises recently.
Visitors and residents mapping
One of the key outputs of the project which is proving very useful is the V&R mapping process. This is a relatively simple way to gain a picture of your students’, staff and users’ online engagement and importantly the motivations behind a range of behaviours. The mapping process is central to the Jisc Netskills workshops and is currently being used by the Higher Education Academy in a project which is working with 17 institutions across the UK, the process acting as a launchpad for improving student engagement and/or supporting digital literacies work more generally.
Join us at #digifest14
At the Jisc Digital Festival on Wednesday 12 March at 13:30 (Hall10b) I will be co-hosting a V&R mapping workshop with Netskills. Do come along and sample the mapping process for yourself. (I will also be helping to run a consultation workshop on the 12 March at 9:30 (Hall 10b) for the Digital Student project).