How Libraries Can Increase Student Engagement with Course Materials

When college students engage with course resources consistently, they have more academic success. Yet, a 2016 research review suggests that fewer than 30 percent of students, on average, complete the required reading for their courses.

When college students engage with course resources consistently, they have more academic success. Yet, a 2016 research review suggests that fewer than 30 percent of students, on average, complete the required reading for their courses.

“Not all course content can be covered in the lectures,” says Tamar Sadeh, vice president of teaching and learning at Ex Libris. “To be successful, students need to read and process information for themselves.”

What’s more, many instructors have adopted the flipped classroom model in which students are expected to learn the content on their own before class. Instead of lecturing, the instructor spends class time leading students in a discussion or analysis of this information to take their learning deeper. This is yet another reason why it’s important for students to do the required reading by themselves.

Although encouraging students to fully engage with course materials is an important success strategy, several key barriers stand in the way. For instance…

  • The 2016 research review indicates that some students underestimate the importance of required reading, while others are bored by course readings or suffer from a lack of motivation.
  • Affordability remains an issue for students. According to the 2020 Alterline survey of U.S. faculty and students, sponsored by Ex Libris, 36% of students have chosen not to enroll in a course because the cost of textbooks and other materials was too steep—and 56% say the high cost of materials has had a negative impact on their success.
  • Students also need easier access to course materials, especially in digital format. In the Alterline survey, 46% of students said they’ve encountered broken links to digital resources at some point—and 44% have been unable to find course materials online.

Libraries play a key role

Libraries have always championed free and easy access to information, and on many college campuses, librarians are leveraging their extensive collections and experience to help students overcome access and affordability barriers. However, the Alterline survey suggests that campus libraries are still underutilized in this area.

Fewer than half (46%) of faculty surveyed said they turn to their institution’s library to find course materials. That ranks behind general web searches (78%), recommendations from peers (76%), discipline-specific databases and collections (65%), and looking at what others in their field choose for course materials (50%).

“If librarians understand which resources are being used by faculty, then they can promote what they have in their collections, make digital copies for students, or purchase what students need,” says Jessie Ransom, teaching and learning product specialist for Ex Libris.

Librarians can also help manage or fix broken links to digital materials and ensure that students have access to alternate versions of print materials.

How a course resource list management platform can help

A digital platform for effectively managing course resource lists can simplify these processes, helping institutions improve access to course materials and reduce the cost of these items for students by using the library’s collections, expertise, and services.

With a course resource list management solution, faculty can easily build lists of resources that include all types of materials, including books, ebooks, journal articles, videos, websites, podcasts, and other resources. Librarians can provide these resources more efficiently and scale up their services to support more courses. And students can access all their course materials in one convenient location within the learning management system (LMS), from any device.

“The right course resource list management platform works as a bridge between faculty, who are assembling course materials, students, who need to access these materials, and the library, who can help support these efforts and provide resources,” says Ransom. “It’s a shared platform that helps all three stakeholder groups solve many of the challenges associated with course materials.”

A course resource list platform makes it easy for students to find and access all the materials they need for their classes, within the LMS. Furthermore, it is the right platform to help librarians become essential partners in making these resources more accessible to students. Ex Libris Leganto is a good example. Through an integration with the library’s management software,  Leganto helps instructors easily find and choose materials from the library’s collections to add to their resource lists. This helps ensure that library resources are used effectively for teaching and learning, while giving students options that they can obtain materials from the library instead of having to purchase for themselves.

Instructors can also request materials that the library doesn’t own or subscribe to. When that happens, librarians are alerted to these requests automatically, so they can optionally buy the materials, obtain the necessary copyrights, or scan the items to make digital copies available to students.

If faculty understand which materials students are engaging with the most, they can leverage this information to make better decisions about the materials they choose the next time they teach the course. A high-quality course resource list management platform includes built-in analytics that give instructors an accurate picture of how students are engaging with course materials, such as how many students clicked on a link and what other actions they took. This rich insight can help faculty make strategic changes to their course resource lists from semester to semester to support student engagement more effectively.

A high-quality course resource list management solution also includes features that make course reading assignments a more active and collaborative experience. For instance, the “Social Reading” feature within Leganto allows students to annotate the digital materials within a course resource list by leaving notes and comments for the instructor and their peers to see. Students can view and respond to each other’s comments, making the reading a socially collaborative process. Additionally, Leganto’s “Read and Respond” assignments allow faculty to make reading assignments more interactive for students by prompting them to respond to what they’ve read as a dedicated assignment in the LMS.

Engagement leads to success

Whatever colleges and universities can do to get students to engage with course materials more consistently will only boost students’ chances of success. The right course resource list platform can help by reducing the barriers that prevent students from accessing materials, helping faculty measure engagement and choose appropriate materials, and supporting more active learning strategies.




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