May 18, 2022

How Do Learners Develop Digital Literacies? (Digital Visitors/Residents Progress Report)

A new progress report (June 2012) from the Digital Visitors and Residents project
is now available.

This research effort comes from a JISC, OCLC Research, and University of North Carolina partnership.

It is a longitudinal study which utilizes the Visitors and Residents (V&R) concept as a framework to reassess learners‘ (including staff) engagement with digital technologies.


David White, Co-Principal Investigator, Oxford University
Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Co-Principal Investigator, OCLC Research
Donna Lanclos, Co-Investigator, UNC Charlotte
Alison Le Cornu, Co-Investigator, Oxford Univeristy
Erin Hood, Research Assistant, OCLC Research

From a JISC Summary:

Ben Showers JISC programme manager said: “By understanding and recognising students’ hidden behaviours and motivations, JISC is in a position to help universities and colleges develop better digital services and resources, with the student experience significantly improved.”

To understand learners’ engagement with digital technologies, JISC is now funding the next phase of the project which uses the concept of visitors and residents to describe their online journey.

The visitor sees the internet as a toolbox that they use for a specific task and then leave the web without leaving a footprint.  The resident partially lives out their life online; they see the web as somewhere they can express themselves.

It’s the next phase in a longitudinal study into US and UK learners at different stages of their education in a partnership between the University of Oxford and OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc., in collaboration with the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

The study says that there is now 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 are often wary of citing such resources.


Ben Showers said: “It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the Visitors and Residents work.  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.”

There are more intriguing findings from the study, including that LinkedIn becomes more important to people in the later stages of their education; that there is more skepticism in the US than the UK education system over students’ use of Wikipedia; and that students prefer email over instant messenger and other tools for ‘administrative’ tasks such as contacting a researcher.

Direct to Progress Report (41 pages; PDF)


From January 2012, Lorcan Dempsey (VP, OCLC Research and Chief Strategist) Talks With Lynn Silipigni Connaway and David White about the project.

Digital Visitors and Residents Project Homepage (OCLC Research)

Digital Visitors and Residents Project Homepage (JISC)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.