Why study users? An environmental scan of use and users of digital resources in humanities and social sciences undergraduate education

Diane Harley


This article presents an overview of a two-year study [1] that (1) mapped the universe of digital resources available to undergraduate educators in the humanities and social sciences (H/SS); and, (2) examined how a better understanding of the variation in use and users can benefit the integration of these resources into undergraduate teaching. Our results suggest that faculty use a vast array of online materials from both educational and “non-educational” sources, but many do not use digital resources for a host of reasons including the lack of direct relevance to their preferred pedagogical approaches, and insufficient time and classroom resources. Our discussions with digital resource providers confirmed that an understanding of the actual use of their resources in undergraduate settings is often murky. These discussions also made clear that resources created by higher education institutions will continue to proliferate despite a lack of formal knowledge about users and/or clear models for financial sustainability. A more precise understanding of the diversity of use and user behavior, and the ability to share findings from user studies, will require that the digital resource development community make typologies, standards of data and data collection, and results more transparent.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v12i1.1423

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