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Faculty, Students Disagree on Digital Content Usage Savvy

In spite of seemingly unlimited sources of reusable multimedia content available online, digital literacy is still a struggle in higher education. A recent survey found that while 45 percent of students consider themselves as "highly digitally literate," only 14 percent of faculty would agree. Conversely, 49 percent of faculty say they're quite digitally literate, but only 23 percent of their students agree.

Maybe both groups need more practice with multimedia. Nearly a third (31 percent) of faculty have assigned three or fewer projects to students that required them to create or include multimedia. And while 31 percent of students rated themselves very or extremely knowledgeable about copyright and fair use, only 5 percent of instructors agreed with them. In fact, 7 in 10 faculty considered their students either only slightly knowledgeable or completely unknowledgeable about the subject.

Those data points and others showed up in the results of a new survey by a company that sells a service to colleges and universities providing copyright-free access to audio and video content for use in their courses. VideoBlocks, which produces Digital Backpack, surveyed 300 people, split fairly evenly between students and faculty.

The survey found that the educators usually hunt outside of university-provided sources to identify the digital media that they use in their coursework. Only a fifth rely on institutional resources. Other sources are Creative Commons-licensed content (21 percent), other copyright-free online services (31 percent) and licensed content (12 percent). Another 9 percent admit to the use of copyright-protected resources. Students are more likely to use university-provided resources (32 percent), while 13 percent acknowledge using content illegally.

A large number of instructors appear to prefer to leave digital copyright compliance up to the students themselves. More than 4 in 10 (42 percent) said they verify digital copyrights on student work just sometimes or never.

From the faculty perspective, as the survey found, lack of access to digital media and supporting technology and lack of time and training are big areas of frustration for them. As one respondent told the researchers, "It is difficult enough staying current in my rapidly changing field when teaching three [four]-credit hour classes a semester. I know that there are digital resources available that could help with student learning, but I don't have time to research and figure out how to use these tools."

In spite of the challenges, most respondents on both sides of the lecture hall consider the use of digital media in course materials positive. More than 9 in 10 faculty members (91 percent) said its inclusion improved student learning outcomes to some extent. Three quarters of students (76 percent) said the use of multimedia in lectures helped them stay more engaged in their classes.

"The 2016 State of Digital Media in Higher Education Report" is available with registration on the VideoBlocks education site.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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