Initial hurdles – the LJMU experience

Energised by the initial project team meeting, the LDIP team at LJMU set about gathering the required data in order to make our contribution to the project. Having already had a few discussions we were fairly confident that we would be able to gather the required data. We had access to student records and numbers, Athens data, library usage data from Aleph and we were aware that our security system (gate entry into the library) kept a historic record of each individual’s entry and exit into the buildings which are serviced through the swipe card entry system. We just needed to pull all this together through the unique student number.

Getting this particular bit of data from our Acadmic Planning department was straightforward. An anonymised list of all 2010 graduating students, along with their programme of study and degree classification, and most importantly their unique id number was duely provided.

Hurdle one – Our security system does indeed log and track student movement through the use of the swipe card entry system, but we are unable to get the systemt to report on this. All data from the system is archived by the system supplier and is subsequently not readily available to us. This means that entry into the Learning Resource Centres is not going to be something we can report upon on this occassion.

Hurdle two – Our Network team systematically delete student network accounts upon graduation, which means the record that links an individual’s unique student ID number, Athens account, security number and Library barcode is not available for the students whose library usage we wished to analyse!

There were about 4,500 students who graduated from LJMU in 2010 with undergraduate degrees, but unfortunately, by the time I got to speak to the network manager, 3,000 of these had been deleted, as is our institutional practice and poilicy.

The upshot of all this is that we are only going to be able to provide data for a third of the potential students that we could have provided data for if we had thought to ask these questions earlier on. But at least we are still able to contribute.

Focus Groups – I am hoping that the organisation and co-ordination of some student focus groups will be more fruitful, but early indicators suggest that the timing of this is not particularly good as we are now in a reading week which will be followed by end of semster exams and coursework submissions, along with an Easter Bank Holiday weekend and Royal Wedding to be squeezed in. In effect, this is the busiest time of the year for our students. However, we have agreat relationship with our student union and they are normally very helpful and responsive so I am hoping we will have something organised very soon.

What would we do differently? – the lessons learnt in this instance are to do with internal partnerships and communication. When first approached about the project we thought that we had asked the right questions of the right people within the University. However, it is obvious to us now that we should have made sure that we discussed our plans in more detail with the Head of Networks and the Head of Security as they are our means of access to two of the key systems that we require in order for us to obtain the required data. Discussions with key stakeholders are of the utmost importance as they highlight local practices and procedures as well as potential difficulties with systems and contracts (as is the case with our security system)

On a positive note all  our stakeholders our excited to be involved in the project and do wish that we could provide more data. Our networks manager has already indicated that he would be happy to delay future network account deletions if we wanted to obtain similar data for our 2011 graduates.

To sum up, an interesting couple of weeks at LJMU in our quest to get the LIDP data, and I hope that this post brings with it a few words to the wise……

2 thoughts on “Initial hurdles – the LJMU experience”

  1. Hi Leo

    We are very interested in data and impact at the moment, on a much smaller scale, obviously. We’re going to try to relate course success with library use, but having reasonable distributions to make the stats meaningful will be a big issue.

    Good luck with your analysis, and thanks for the tips on thinking ahead.

    Lindsay Wallace
    Mid Cheshire College

  2. This is an excellent overview of the practical issues involved in getting data. Thanks for the post. I’ll highlight it to the synthesis project who I’m sure will want to include it in their planning.

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