About Maura A. Smale

Maura Smale is Chief Librarian at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Academic Libraries for Commuter Students Now Available OA!

We’re delighted to share that our 2018 edited book Academic Libraries for Commuter Students: Research-Based Strategies is now available open access!

Many, many thanks to our contributors, we’re delighted to share their good work.

Here’s the abstract for the volume, and you can check out the table of contents on our Books page:

This volume brings together research from multiple perspectives on the experiences of commuter college students in academic libraries. The majority of American college students are commuters and are more likely than residential students to have responsibilities apart from their roles on campus; the commute itself may impact the student experience. Each chapter is a case study of research on serving commuter students at a particular institution, encompassing a detailed description of the research methods used, analysis of what was learned during the research, and specific interventions or changes made in library services, resources, or facilities as a result. Taking into account the lived experiences of commuter students at our institutions can enable librarians to design and develop services, resources, and facilities to best meet the needs of these students. Included research protocols will allow readers to consider using the methods for research at their own library.

Bronx EdTech Showcase Enlightenment Keynote

After so many conferences were canceled last spring, we’ve been glad to get back on the presentation train this year. We had a terrific time on Friday May 7 presenting at the annual Bronx EdTech Showcase. Our presentation was the enlightenment keynote in the morning, including a brief talk about the work we’ve done on undergraduate use of academic technology, and breaking out into smaller groups to play a game about envisioning edtech futures.

Many thanks to the conference organizers, fellow presenters, and attendees! We’re happy to share our slides as well as the game overview and rules.

CUNY IT Conference Keynote

We were so honored to be invited to deliver one of the keynote presentations at last week’s CUNY IT Conference. Our talk, “Technology is great, but it’s really time-consuming:” Understanding Students’ Digital Academic Lives, highlighted what we’ve learned about how students use academic technology during our decade of research on CUNY students’ lived experiences. Many thanks to the conference organizers and to fellow keynoter Larry Irving. It was terrific to have the opportunity to share our work with so many CUNY faculty, staff, and students.

We’ve uploaded our talk to CUNY’s institutional repository, Academic Works — feel free to download (and share!) it.

Presenting at the New York Library Association Conference

We took a lovely train trip upstate at the end of last week to present at the NYLA annual conference in Saratoga Springs. We had a terrific time talking about our research and discussing ways that many kinds of librarians — public, academic, K-12 — can support college students in their uses of technology.

Many thanks to the enthusiastic attendees of our session! Our slides are available for download, too.

Our New Book is Here!

Academic Libraries for Commuter Students We’re delighted to share the news that our new book was just published by the American Library Association: Academic Libraries for Commuter Students: Research-Based Strategies. It’s available directly from the publisher ALA Editions (among other vendors), and you can take a look at the book’s Chapter 1 and Index on the ALA website as well.

This edited volume brings brings together research by librarians and academics at public community and baccalaureate colleges and universities from across the U.S., commuter institutions and those with both commuter and residential populations. It’s been amazing to work with our talented contributors, all doing terrific work with and in support of commuter students in their libraries and institutions.

The Table of Contents is below, and there’s a press release from ALA as well. We’d love to hear your feedback, feel free to get in touch!

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1 Situating Commuter Undergraduates
Maura A. Smale and Mariana Regalado

Chapter 2 Commuter Campus in Transition: Meeting the Changing Needs of Students through Mixed-Methods Assessment
M. Sara Lowe, Willie Miller, and Paul Moffett

Chapter 3 Making Space in the Library for Student-Parents
Donna M. Lanclos and Rachael Winterling

Chapter 4 Beyond the Bubble: Undergraduate Commutes and the Library at a Flagship Public University
Juliann Couture

Chapter 5 A Decade of Research at Urban Commuter Colleges
Jean Amaral, Mariana Regalado, and Maura A. Smale

Chapter 6 “I Study in My Car:” Exploring the Study Habits of California Community College Commuter Students
Brian Greene and Elizabeth Horan

Chapter 7 Making the Library Work for Community College Commuters: The Case of Montgomery College
Tanner Wray and Nancy Fried Foster

Chapter 8 Library Instruction and Academic Success: The Impact of Student Engagement
Ted Chodock

Chapter 9 Lessons Learned from Our Commuter Students
Mariana Regalado and Maura A. Smale

Online Learning with In-Person Technology

With our terrific colleague Prof. Jean Amaral (BMCC) we’ve just published “Online Learning with In-Person Technology: Student & Faculty Experiences in Hybrid/Online Courses at CUNY.” In this report we share findings from our qualitative research on students taking and faculty teaching hybrid or online courses at BMCC, Brooklyn College, and City Tech during the 2015-2016 academic year.

Please download and share widely, and get in touch with any questions or feedback!

Online Learning with In-Person Technology: Student & Faculty Experiences in Hybrid/Online Courses at CUNY

Here’s a brief overview of the report:

Online learning continues to grow throughout higher education, including expansion at urban commuter institutions like the City University of New York (CUNY) that have traditionally focused primarily on in-person courses. Building on research into the scholarly habits of CUNY students, we undertook a qualitative study to explore the lived experiences of CUNY students and faculty using technology in online and hybrid courses. Our research revealed how students and faculty use online tools in support of learning and illuminated a range of experiences determined by differing access to and skills with technology, the usability of required technology platforms, availability of support, and communication and connection in online courses. Insights from this research can inform the development and deployment of online learning tools and support for students and faculty at CUNY and on other commuter college and university campuses.

Finding Places, Making Spaces

We’ve been researching the CUNY student experience for a while now, and have collected an enormous amount of data: interviews with students and faculty (subsequently transformed into transcripts and coded), student photographs and drawings, and geocoded map locations. And for years we have wanted to find some way to showcase the visual data, and especially the photographs taken by and drawings done by CUNY students in 2009-2011. If you’ve seen us present or looked through our slide decks you’ve seen some of these images. They are AMAZING, full of detail and nuance and movement and challenges and triumphs, and we are so grateful that students shared them with us during our research.

We are thrilled to share our new website, Finding Places, Making Spaces. This website presents selected visual data from our research with CUNY students in 2009-2011 at BMCC, Bronx Community College, Brooklyn College, City College, Hunter College, and City Tech. Students sketched maps of their daily routes, photographed items related to their academic lives, and drew representations of their research processes.

These visualizations augment our publications on this research, and provide an alternate way to learn about what we learned from CUNY students. We’ve included photographs that students took of places and technology, drawings that students made of their process when completing a research assignment, and timelines created with maps that students drew of the activities of a typical school day. All are accompanied by quotes from student interviews, to contextualize the images in students’ own words.

Please take a look at https://ushep.net/. We’d love to hear what you think.

Presentation on Student Taskscapes at Hunter ACERT

We were delighted to present at Hunter College’s ACERT (Academic Center for Excellence in Research and Teaching) last week, talking about our research on the CUNY student experience. We focused here especially on student taskscapes: what they’re doing, where and when, with what tools or objects, and around which other people, and especially the challenges or successes they find.

Many thanks to Jeff Allred (English, Hunter) for inviting us to present, and to everyone at ACERT for a great event. Jeff’s written a blogpost about the event on the ACERT website, and the excellent ACERT videoteam have also posted a video capsule wrapup.

Just One More Question

I’m on sabbatical for the spring and early summer, working on a study of undergraduate attitudes and practices around their course reading that should complement our research on students’ lived experiences at CUNY. I’m interested in how our students get access to what they need to read, their process while reading (for example, do they take notes? where do they find space and time to read?), how they prioritize the task of reading, and where they encounter frustration and success.

This is not a post about the results of my research — while I’ve finished up interviews, transcriptions, and coding, I’ve yet to dig into writing up. But I wanted to take some time to write and think about my research practice while the interviewing, transcribing, and coding process is still relatively fresh in my mind. In particular I’d like to consider one specific question I asked during my semi-structured interviews with students:

Are there any questions you thought I would ask that I didn’t?

This question closed out most of my 30 interviews with students and elicited a variety of responses. It’s not a question I’ve asked of research participants before this study, though it seemed like a potentially useful twist on the “is there anything else you’d like to share?” question that I’ve often used at the end of interviews.

Let’s start with the flyers I hung up at BMCC, Brooklyn College, and City Tech to recruit students. Here’s what they said:

BMCC* Students: I’m a City Tech professor doing a study on college students and course reading, and I’d like to interview you.

*or Brooklyn College or City Tech

Underneath that was a bit of text about participant incentives, my name, and the email address to use to contact me for more information or to join the study. When students emailed me I responded briefly with information that was mostly logistical: participants must be at least 18 years old, interviews will take about 30 minutes and be audio-recorded, the Metrocard/Amazon giftcard is for $10.

When students came meet me for an interview, the first thing I did was ask them to read and sign the consent form, as required by CUNY’s Institutional Review Board. The form is 1 1/2 pages long, and while there is a brief summary of my project, it’s predominantly required text about potential risks and benefits, confidentiality, participant rights, and non-participation or withdrawal. In my experience most students read through consent forms fairly quickly; I always ask students if they have any questions before signing, and most don’t.

Looking back at students’ responses to my new last interview question has been fascinating. Most students replied with “no” or some variation on no, like this student from BMCC: “You actually asked all the right questions.” And this somewhat humorous response from a City Tech student: “I think you’ve asked a sufficient amount of questions” (laugh).

A Brooklyn College student thought I would ask about their prior experiences and background with reading, because “a lot of college students hate reading and, like, dread it.” They further speculated on the source of students’ reading struggles: “maybe because they just don’t have really good foundations in reading.” Since I did ask students about their experiences with reading in high school or educational settings before college, as well as about their struggles with reading, I was glad to hear that this student’s expectations matched the interview’s reality.

A couple of students replied that they thought I would ask them to read during the interview, like this Brooklyn College student: “I thought I would come here to read something and you would get my opinion on that.” This student also shared that “I really like that it was specified towards me.” In prior rounds of research we’ve heard from students that mapping their days and considering their research process offered an opportunity for self-reflection that they found valuable, and I think this student’s response hints at that kind of reflection as well.

Several students across all three colleges told me that they thought I would ask whether their reading was difficult or interesting, or about specific topics for reading “like, for English classes” (City Tech). A BMCC student expected me to ask about their process for writing papers, which makes sense given that a paper is often the end result of reading that students are required to do.

A few students responded to my question by asking for more specific information on my study, including what I planned to do with the results of the research. Some students had asked this question when they initially emailed me (and one student mentioned that my email had answered all of her questions). In response to the students who asked for more details I shared a bit about my role as a library faculty member and wanting to learn more about what kinds of course materials students need and where they encounter barriers accessing or reading them. I also let students know that I’ll be sharing the results of my research both within CUNY and more broadly via conferences and publications.

Looking back at all of these student responses makes me think that I should add a sentence or two about the purpose of the research to my email with students when signing them up for the study. I also wonder whether I’ve been clear enough about the purpose of my research on the consent form, though it’s unavoidable that some of the required language on the consent form is quite dry (and with its length it’s easy for participants to treat it like terms & conditions and just read quickly and sign). Overall I think this new twist on my final question is a good one, and I’m inclined to keep it for the future.

Understanding the Whole Student at Teach @ CUNY Day

We were thrilled to be invited to present the keynote at Teach @ CUNY Day yesterday along with Natalia Ortiz, doctoral student in Urban Education at the CUNY Graduate Center. Our presentation was a broad overview of our research into how CUNY undergraduates fit their academic work into their lives, focusing on study locations, the technology they use, and how they do research in their courses. Natalia’s terrific presentation also spoke to our students as whole people and ourselves — faculty and staff — as whole people as well, and it was lovely to experience that synergy. Both presentations were livestreamed if you’d like to check them out, and here are the slides and notes from our presentation.

Many thanks again to Luke Waltzer, Director of the Teaching & Learning Center at the GC, and all at the TLC for inviting us to speak and participate in a great day of workshops and conversations.