RLI 284 Library Space Assessment: Focusing on Learning 16 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC 2013 28 they have a stake in the higher education system, and they want more transparency from universities and colleges. Two markers that are of particular concern to many citizens are persistence (continuing a program to completion and awarding of a degree) and time-to-degree (the number of years it takes students to complete a degree in a given institution). In order to get a better understanding of factors that interfere with persistence and that lengthen time-to-degree, many institutions are taking a data-driven approach to analyzing student performance. Preparing for an accreditation review or an external review of a program or department may also be the impetus for increased attention to assessment on a campus. Campus administrators and those charged with managing such processes must decide what they want to measure, what methodologies they will employ, and how they anticipate using the results. While there are many ways to approach teaching and learning assessment in higher education, three diverse themes have recently been in the news at the national level: learning analytics, faculty and student effort, and student engagement. Aligning library space assessment efforts with these highly publicized issues may be challenging, but connections are possible, and they may prompt closer attention to the library’s overall service program. Learning Analytics Faculty make assumptions about student learning and continue to use traditional testing mechanisms to assess class performance. Many university faculty, whether by choice or necessity, focus more of their efforts on research than on teaching, and continue the practice of giving lectures and exams without careful analysis of where their students might encounter particular difficulties with the course content. Systems that employ learning analytics are receiving increasing attention as a means to understand what enables and what blocks student success in particular courses or curricula.7 Software, installed as part of a learning management system or an institutional learning environment, log their activities as they complete assignments, use facilities, or attend tutoring sessions. Detailed data are collected on individual students’ performance in courses these data can include performance on quizzes, completion of homework, accesses of materials on the learning management system, and data from other units such as a writing or tutoring center. Advisors or faculty receive reports on students’ learning activities and may receive alerts that some students are struggling in the course. Faculty can also analyze aggregated data to better understand where improvements are needed in the learning materials for the course and are encouraged to make revisions for future semesters. Learning analytics may be particularly effective in improving student success in large-enrollment, required courses thereby facilitating persistence in the program and institution. Potentially, library data can be a component of learning analytics as well. Data such as use of the facility’s collection, its equipment, and/or its group study rooms can be captured and could possibly be fed into the analytics software at an institution or correlated with relevant institutional student data such as GPA, major, etc. Privacy issues will be of concern to librarians in this arena, but there are methods available for securing user privacy. If libraries wish to participate in such efforts, it may require partnership with key campus stakeholders such as registration and records, institutional data, and faculty or staff with
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