When young people talk about their everyday student life today, it doesn’t take much and older graduates from the family, parents or even grandparents generation begin to report, half compassionately, half nostalgically, about how different it was back then. A university course without towers of books on the library table, coffee stains on the seminar paper or contested copy templates? For many of them, that seems hard to imagine. And if so, then as a bland infusion of her own student days.
But the digital has long left its mark on everyday university life, even before the pandemic ceased operations and the university libraries had to close for the time being. For years, lecturers have been publishing their lecture and seminar plans, PowerPoint slides and scripts, as well as the obligatory seminar reading, almost exclusively digitally on learning platforms such as Moodle. The provisions of the new copyright law that came into force in 2018 allow longer works to be made available in full in excerpts of up to 15 percent and shorter works of up to 25 pages of text as well as individual articles from scientific journals and out-of-print works.
Even before the pandemic, these digital offers were the only source to get their teaching and learning material, especially for Bachelor students who have to master a large number of events and exams. At the end of the semester, the lecture notes and notes were summarized, evaporated and memorized. There is seldom time and leisure for more extensive literature research.
Even text discussions and group work are completely digital
As virtual course rooms in which students and lecturers can interact with each other, Moodle and Co. have so far been little used. The pandemic has changed that. In addition to the synchronous study in regular video conferences, lecturers can integrate formats of asynchronous learning into their teaching, for example through grammar fill-in-the-blank in the language course or arithmetic tasks in the statistics tutorial. This allows lecturers to rate weekly submissions and hold final exams online. Some teachers even save themselves the weekly Zoom conference and shift text discussions and group work completely to collaborative text editors such as Etherpad.
The library holdings have by no means become superfluous. Quite apart from the fact that for many students they are social fixed points in everyday university life. Last but not least, the library is a place with a stable internet connection and the peace and quiet that is needed to be able to concentrate on your work. However, especially in the reading-intensive subjects, seminar papers have to be written even in times of digital teaching. And for them it depends on a more in-depth examination of scientific sources.
The digitized holdings of the university libraries are often the first port of call
It is now often possible to borrow media and pick up interlibrary loans. Anyone who presents a negative corona test or proof of vaccination can also book one of the limited workstations on site in most libraries. In the pandemic, however, many first-year students did not even move to their university towns or would still like to avoid staying in closed rooms. You therefore remain dependent on digital offers on the Internet. The first point of contact for systematic literature research online are the digital holdings of the university libraries. Their search interfaces are basically also accessible to those who are not enrolled. In order to get full access to licensed content, you usually need university access. Many universities offer their students the option of dialing into the library network using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and thus accessing online collections from their home desk. In addition to the physical library holdings, e-books and articles from electronic journals for which the libraries have rights of use can also be viewed. They can be downloaded for personal use.