The Library Data project has now closed and this final blog post provides a summary of the main activities of the project and identifies some of the lessons learned from the work.
The core project activities comprised several streams of activity
- Taking library resource access data (derived from EZproxy and OpenAthens systems) and combining this with student results and completion data to produce a number of analyses and visualisations.
- A detailed cohort study with two Social Work practitioner modules. This combined some data analysis with data from a reflective quiz, an analysis of an assignment and interviews with students using the directed storytelling methodology from ethnography research approaches.
- Improving the infrastructure used to manage and visualise library data and introducing ElasticSearch and Kibana.
- Skills activities to help library staff build capabilities in analysing and using data.
- Work to continue to push for library data to be included within the institutional data warehouse.
- Communications around the project activities.
- Data cleaning – a large amount of effort is taken up in extracting and processing data before any analysis can be undertaken.
- Skills – vitally important for the team to have data manipulation and analysis skills and to have skills in a range of tools such as Excel and SPSS but also some capabilities around SQL and SAS.
- Communication – valuable to get messages out quickly to key stakeholders about initial findings.
- Statistical capabilities – important to have access to advice from statisticians.
- Improving skills and confidence – Hands-on sessions with data helped with improving staff confidence but some staff more inclined to engage with data activities.
- Value of data in engagement – being able to provide detailed data to faculty colleagues very valuable in engaging them in conversations about how students are using the library.
- Flexibility – need to be prepared to adjust project – particularly important with an exploratory project.
Data analyses produced by the project have been used as part of a new set of library reports provided to Schools about engagement with the library.
The project has shown that library resource accesses increase at the OU as students study at higher levels. Students who gain higher grades are accessing more library resources (a pattern seen in many other institutions). A forthcoming paper ‘Library resources, student success and the distance-learning university’ (2017). Information and Learning Science, covers this part of the work of the project.
The small cohort study has started to show the value of using UX techniques to gain a better understanding of why students are using the library, what their motivations are and what their perceptions are of the value of the materials.
Some progress has been made with getting library data into the institutional data warehouse and other stakeholders now have library data inclusion on their agenda.
The Library has some improved capability to undertake data analysis as well as some better tools to manage internal data.