18th LIASA Annual Conference: Abstracts: Honing a digital solution for a digital generation: taking the next step – a case study

Honing a digital solution for a digital generation: taking the next step – a case study

Brenda van Wyk

A private higher education institution (HEI) in Southern Africa piloted its first digitally enabled campus in 2015. This campus, also known as a connected campus, was designed to cater for distance students with the added benefit of scheduled contact sessions.  After opening its doors to new cohorts in January 2016, this concept proved to be successful and a further two campuses are planned along similar lines. Instead of implementing traditional library services for these campuses, a new concept was researched, designed, planned and implemented as a digital learning commons, tailored for their specific teaching and learning requirements. In this model the digital library services range from embedded information sources on the LMS, access to the latest full text eBooks, supply of ‘how-to’ guides for plagiarism prevention and referencing, software down loads and more. The information support services are offered in an integrated and well-coordinated digitally enabled environment. Faber defines a learning commons as: “This space, which is a blend of physical and virtual environments, transforms teaching and learning by allowing both staff and students to co-create knowledge” (Faber, 2012, p.17).  It offers a digital solution for a digital generation. Seamless inter-departmental collaboration is essential for the success of this model. As such, buy-in and input from departments such as governance and management structures, information technology systems departments, academic library and information services, and academic teams are critical for the planning and implementation of the digital learning commons. Informed by lessons learned from the first implementation, this case study gives an account of the second phase of a digital learning commons project. The study offers solutions for overcoming learner digital resistance, for improved access and information services, and that look at ways to increase departmental collaboration. This digital learning commons concept sets new trends for  higher education (HE) in Southern Africa for supporting students’ and academic’s information needs via a well-planned digital learning commons. The second phase reinvented and improved the physical layout, the collaborative spaces and improved the online support services. The planning of second phase of the improved digital learning commons was approached from a combined paradigm of andragogic, heudagogic and action learning frameworks as opposed to pedagogic.