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Student’s Online Attention and Reading lists #altc2011


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Do students engage with academic reading lists? And if they do, in what format do they like their books - paper or e-books? After secondary education and strategies they have adopted to be successful at A level, many undergraduates fail to engage with non-assessed extension tasks when they transition to HE. A generation ago the sources of information available to students were comparatively few: lectures, journals and reading lists of carefully selected books. In some disciplines, literature has remained the focus of study, but in others, science in particular, online information has out-competed traditional sources. As the ubiquity of online interactions has increased with services such as Facebook and Twitter, important information becomes submerged in the chatter. Non-assessed reading to broaden knowledge does not compete effectively with just-in-time sources such as Wikipedia.
I surveyed 550 undergraduate students and discovered that only 30% claimed to have read any of the books on the reading list given to them. 25% claimed to have read an e-book in the previous year but only 5% of these used a specialized e-book reader such as a Kindle or iPad application.
*survey results in graphical form
To encourage students to engage with reading lists, I created a low cost interactive website with a familiar Amazon-style format allowing students to leave star ratings, reviews and recommendations ( This low cost solution is based on WordPress and Google Forms. Working in partnership with the university library, student's union and a student society, I began a series of regular face to face student-led meetings in the format of a book discussion group to reinforce the online component of the project, held as casual twilight sessions in informal learning spaces in the students union.
Responses to the website indicate that the face to face element of the blended program is more important in driving engagement than the online element. The role of technology in driving engagement will be discussed.

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Student’s Online Attention and Reading lists #altc2011

  1. 1. Student's Online Attention and Reading lists: navigating the river of student attention (0015) Alan Cann School of Biological Sciences University of Leicester Find me here: [email_address]
  2. 2. The Problem All students are given a printed reading list in the first week of term. But: Survey Says : [email_address]
  3. 3. Students Say : <ul><li>I was not made aware that it existed until the end of my first year. I think if would be good to make this list known to freshers when they first arrive at university. </li></ul><ul><li>I was not aware of the existence of a reading list. </li></ul><ul><li>Unless the School reading list happens to have journals specific to each module and assessment I personally do not see the use in it. </li></ul><ul><li>I can only vaguely remember receiving this list. I remember having read some books on the list, by coincidence. </li></ul><ul><li>I have never been provided with a reading list and wasn't even aware of where to find it. </li></ul><ul><li>It contains pointless books & are a waste of time. </li></ul><ul><li>I was told not to worry about it. </li></ul><ul><li>Is it actually essential? I was given a reading list when I started my first year back in 2008. Didn't read anything from it. Also, didn't need to. </li></ul>[email_address]
  4. 4. The Solution? Two pronged approach: [email_address] <ul><li>SciReadr .com </li></ul><ul><li>Face to face book group meetings in a social setting (beer or coffee) </li></ul>
  5. 5. Did it work? Book group meetings difficult to organize (&quot;too busy&quot;). Only one so far, 1 student attended. [email_address]
  6. 6. The Cult of the Individual Some students still read books, but they don't feel the need to aggregate into social groups to share their feelings. Instead, the literate may express themselves as individuals. Facebook is the new de facto social but it breaks larger units. The losers are clubs and societies, and institutions. Disintermediation breaks the social rationale for these groupings. Students study as individuals, socialize with their Facebook friends. They have no need for societies. Social networks are not the cause, merely a reflection of change. Where are we going with these technologies? Is it futile to work against them, should we cultivate the zeitgeist? What does this mean for education? How do we influence student behavior, give them the reading habit if they don't arrive in H.E. with it? [email_address]
  7. 7. Where do we go from here? Is assessment the only way? [email_address]
  8. 8. The Great Book Vote <ul><li>Go to http:// scireadr .com and pick one of the books listed. </li></ul><ul><li>Read the book you have chosen. </li></ul><ul><li>Write a review of the book you have read and add it as to the appropriate page on SciReadr. </li></ul><ul><li>Marks will be awarded for: </li></ul><ul><li>Quality of writing (including spelling, grammar) </li></ul><ul><li>Clarity of expression </li></ul><ul><li>Detailed knowledge of the book you have reviewed (demonstrated by the content of your review, specific quotations to support your argument) </li></ul><ul><li>Persuasiveness - does your review persuade other people to vote for your chosen book (or not, if you thought it wasn't very good)? </li></ul>[email_address]
  9. 9. /AJCann [email_address]