Joint Partnership between The University of Oxford and OCLC Research Wins Continued JISC Funding for Study of Digital Visitors and Residents

JISC, the UK's expert on information and digital technologies for education and research, has agreed to continue funding a third phase of "Visitors and Residents: What Motivates Engagement with the Digital Information Environment?" a UK-US partnership between the University of Oxford and OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc., in collaboration with the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. The project is led by David S. White (U. Oxford—TALL), and Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Ph.D. (OCLC Research).

This ongoing longitudinal study uses the "Visitors and Residents" (V&R) concept as a continuum to reassess the type and level of engagement learners have with digital technologies. It uses four education stages, from late-stage secondary school to practicing researchers and scholars, to focus on individual and group motivations to engage with digital technologies, rather than simply tracking which technologies are popular. The trans-Atlantic partnership supports comparison of the digital-learning strategies of individuals in different cultural contexts.

"It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the Visitors and Residents work," said Ben Showers, JISC Program Manager, Digital Infrastructure. "It is not only challenging assumptions about how students use technology, but it is shedding light on those practices, attitudes and techniques students employ online. By understanding and recognizing their hidden behaviors and motivations JISC is in a position to help universities and colleges develop better digital services and resources, with the student experience significantly improved."

The next phase of the project will receive £50,000, or approximately US$77,000. The project's findings also will have an impact on the digital literacy, content and infrastructure areas within JISC.

"We are very excited to continue this work," said co-principal investigator Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Ph.D. "We believe our preliminary findings will have a great impact on the development of services and systems for teaching and learning."

The project is developing a learning resource that uses the V&R continuum to map individual and group engagement with digital technology for learning. The resource can be used by academic staff and developers and at educational institutions to facilitate reflection, to map modes of engagement with a range of services and to explore new forms of practice.

"The project is discovering the extent to which the embedding of the web in both personal and institutional contexts is changing the way we learn, teach and research," said co-principal investigator David White. "We are delighted to be able to explore this further and to have the opportunity to create resources that can be used to reflect on, and experiment with, new forms of professional practice."

By taking a broad approach the project is able to define the point in emerging information-seeking cycles at which learners engage with institutional services. It also will identify the modes of engagement that learners are using at different educational stages and the motivations behind these uses. These findings will have important implications in the design and positioning of services in the context of the open web.

Learners develop a variety of "digital literacies" in a social trial-and-error process, without the direct support or advice of educational institutions. This process essentially produces a "learning black market" where learners use non-traditional sources of information online, which may lack academic credibility. While these practices can be effective for their studies, students often are wary of citing such resources.

This project is identifying these "learner-owned" literacies, and exploring their relationship to what is presented in more formal educational contexts. Gaining an understanding of these emerging literacies can help ensure that effective advice and guidance are provided in the ongoing development of digital literacies by projects and institutions.

The researchers maintain an active program of releasing outputs and communicating about this work. Co-investigators Lynn Silipigni Connaway and David S. White have released a video ( of their conversation with Lorcan Dempsey, OCLC Research Vice President and Chief Strategist, about current findings as well as future plans for the project. Dr. Connaway recently spoke about the project as a Vision session presenter at the 27th North American Serials Interest Group (NASIG) meeting in Nashville, Tennessee (USA). She also will make a keynote presentation at the 18 June Libraries in the Digital Age (LIDA) conference in Zadar, Croatia. More information about these activities and the project itself is available from the Visitors and Residents activity page at

About JISC
JISC is the UK's expert on information and digital technologies for education and research, driving innovation in UK education and research for more than 15 years.

About TALL
Technology-Assisted Lifelong Learning (TALL) is an e-learning research and development team based at the University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education.

More Information

Digital Visitors and Residents Activity Page

JISC Project Page

June 2012 Digital Visitors and Residents Progress Report

David White. 2012. "Using the web for learning and teaching—a new understanding." Guardian Higher Education Network (blog), Friday 8 June 2012 10:15 EDT.

Connaway, Lynn Silipigni, David White, and Lorcan Dempsey. 2011. Digital Visitors and Residents: What motivates engagement with the digital information environment? An update on current findings. A video production of OCLC Research, October 13, 2011, Dublin, Ohio (USA).

For more information:

Lynn Silipigni Connaway
Senior Research Scientist
OCLC Research

Robert C. Bolander
Senior Communications Officer
OCLC Research