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Which of This Year's Top University Library Trends Will Wield Influence on Virtual Lecture Halls and In-Person Classrooms Alike?

February 17, 2021

Which of This Year's Top University Library Trends Will Wield Influence on Virtual Lecture Halls and In-Person Classrooms Alike?

Misinformation and media literacy. COVID-19 and flattening the curve. Racism and social justice. No organization was untouched by the disruption that 2020 brought, including the more than 5,000 colleges and universities across the country. Unsurprisingly, the biggest university library trends of 2021 are closely linked to the issues that dominated the headlines last year. Take a closer look at the trend sitting atop our latest library trend report and how Nexis Uni delivers the flexibility campuses need to address changing demands.

University Library Trend No. 1: Digital resources earn top marks

Just as brick-and-mortar businesses had to quickly shift gears as the pandemic spread, college campuses had to adapt—and keep adapting—as the virus marched across the country. Moving between in-person, virtual and hybrid learning models has only accelerated the push for digital tools. The trend itself isn’t new. As the number of digital natives attending college has grown, so too has the pressure for universities to provide tools and services that can be accessed anytime, anywhere, from any device. A 2017 survey of college students found that:

  • 53% preferred classes that make use of digital tools
  • 60% associated digital tools with improved grades
  • 94% found digital tools helped them retain new concepts better

But ‘nice-to-have’ became a critical mandate when academic institutions faced campus shutdowns to slow the spread of COVID-19. Last April, the World Economic Forum pointed out, “Whether it is language apps, virtual tutoring, video conferencing tools, or online learning software, there has been a significant surge in usage since COVID-19.”  The transition, however, has not been without challenges.

Putting digital technologies on the fast track quickly highlighted that inadequate bandwidth or insufficient training—often both—contributes to frustrating user experiences and slows adoption. What’s more, the move on-line (and off campus) spotlighted the digital divide along racial and socio-economic lines. The Chronicle, a Duke University news organization, looked at the issue of internet access after many students were told they'd need to leave campus due to the pandemic. The article notes, “For students who don’t have reliable internet access at home, taking classes on Zoom, or simply connecting with friends, can be an overwhelming challenge.” One student admits that being lower income on campus doesn’t “… deter you from doing well in your classes or having basic needs, because you have Wi-Fi and a library to work [in]. Coming back home, being low-income really stands out.”

Duke University created a work-around by sending students wi-fi hotspots, but students faced delays due to a backlog of requests. Some internet service providers also stepped up to help households without access get connected to facilitate online learning.

Moving forward, universities will need to consider all of these challenges to get maximum value from the digital tools they invest in. That’s where Nexis Uni can help. Winner of the 2020 SIIA CODiE™ Award for Best Library Reference or Educational Database, Nexis Uni brings together 15,000 news, legal and business sources, combined with powerful search technologies and collaboration tools, that enable academic research, group projects, connected lesson plans and more. Connect with us to learn more.

Check out the other trends in our 2021 University Libraries Trend Report. Get your copy today!