Benefits – what we expected and what we’ve been able to achieve

For some reason we didn’t manage to finish off our blog post on the intended benefits of the RISE project.  Like the Users post we thought it might be more useful to do it towards the end of the project so we could compare what we hoped we would achieve with what we actually achieved.

Before we started the project the expected benefits were:

Benefits for OU
The project links to the Open University’s strategic priority Focus Area 2 Learning and Teaching Efficiency by improving the search experience for users and developing tools that can be used across multiple platforms.  Within the Library the project links to Strategic Priorities to ‘improve the search experience across all e-collections by implementing intuitive and integrated search’.

By exploiting data that can be recorded by the existing EZProxy system the OU can start to explore whether providing recommendations to users of e-resources will increase the use of e-resources, broaden the range of resources being used, help users to find material that they would otherwise not have located and improve the search and discovery experience.

Benefits for wider community
By using the EZProxy system, which is in widespread use across the HE sector and worldwide, as the source for recommendations data the project will ensure that there is increased value to the community as users of that system will have access to a ready-made toolkit to allow them to exploit this data.

With over 100,000 annual unique users of e-resources the OU e-resource search data will provide a large pool of openly accessible attention data about the use of e-resources, this is likely to be of high value to other institutions planning recommendation services, of use to any national/regional scale initiatives, and as the MOSAIC developer competition showed, of value to the wider community in discovering new and innovative ways to use the data.

The attention data of e-resource searches may be of interest to support the development of Shared Services around the management of e-resources, e.g. as part of the SCONUL Shared Services initiative. The reports of the processes and issues will be of value to those in the community seeking to follow this route.

The Google Gadget developed will be freely available to be adapted by other institutions to access their own search systems.

So how far have we been able to get in realising these benefits?
We’ve been able to develop both a search interface and a Google Gadget.  The search gadget will be taken up by the OU alongside the other Google Gadgets created by the DOULS project in a student dashboard of tools.  RISE has certainly allowed us to do much more work in evaluating the place of recommendations as a tool to support the use of search.

We haven’t yet been able to judge whether recommendations increases the use of e-resources, but comments in the evaluations would seem to indicate that users are getting some resources they would not otherwise have found.  In general users like the idea of having search recommendations.

We have had some interest from other EZProxy users in using the tools and will be making the code available before the end of the project.  We have built a configuration tool to allow users to specify the format of their logfiles when they setup the code.

Although RISE hasn’t yet been able to release any search data, RISE has taken part in and presented at a workshop on Subscribed Resources run with JISC and the SCONUL Shared Services initiative.

The Google Gadget has been created and released.  It is available here

In a short period of time we think we achieved much of what we set out to do.  We certainly know a lot more about recommendations and what people want, how they can be used to improve the user experience of discovery systems and what the challenges are around EZProxy data.

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