The group had its very first meeting on Friday the 11th, and it was a full house – almost all the group members managed to make it to Huddersfield, and were greeted with hot cross buns and biscuits a-plenty.
Introductions were made, and the meeting kicked off with Dave Pattern providing an overview to the background of the project. The germ of an idea began when the library started investigating the kind of people who were using the library, looking at an overall picture rather than something specifically course based. However, it became obvious that there were certain courses who used the library a lot, and some who barely entered, if at all. Creating a non/low usage group within the library at Huddersfield gave the team a chance to focus on targeting specific groups to examine use in more detail, but never created a statistically sound basis to make assumptions, and so the LIDP was conceived!
Graham Stone, the project manager, went through the project documentation and how information is to be disseminated via the blog (with comments welcome from all project members), and reminded members that we don’t consider a positive correlation between library use and attainment to be a causal relationship! The group is very aware of other factors that come into attainment and is by no means suggesting that library use is the only element of importance! Data protection and ethical issues were considered, keeping in mind pending information from Huddersfield’s legal advisor.
Graham asked for volunteers to join a project steering group based at Huddersfield (taking travel distance into consideration!), and it was agreed that Salford would have a representative join the group (a blog post dedicated to the steering group is coming soon).
Bryony Ramsden, the project research assistant, talked about issues that might disrupt the hypothesis (see the main hypothesis blog post), and introduced the idea of running focus groups. Some qualitative data would help explain exactly why some people use the library a huge amount, and some don’t, and help discover why discrepancies between courses might develop. Samples would ideally be a mixture of student types, covering the main groups of undergraduates and postgraduates both full and part time across various schools/bodies. Groups will need to run soon to ensure students aren’t disrupted too much before exams and assignment due dates begin to take up their time, and having found term differences between institutions already the plan was modified from running groups in April and May to over March and April! Data collection could end up running a little tight here, but a move forward could actually be beneficial to all parties if the data is ready earlier than planned.
Dave talked about data collection and emphasised that he realises not all institutions will be able to provide all same sets of data types. He talked through different routes of accessing data to maximise what could be available with a minimum of difficulty. He offered a number of options for passing the data back to him (SQL, Excel, or he can provide coding to help if required), with at least data from academic year of 2009/10. Concerns were expressed that because of variations in graduation dates data may not cover a full academic year, but if these courses are flagged up there may be potential for comparison between like courses. Dave said he’ll create a document detailing the systems of each institution so that he can offer advice easily on data gathering, and reminded everyone that if they have any other data they think might be useful, he’ll welcome suggestions. Data encryption issues were discussed to emphasise the data protection issues raised in the exchange process. Data should be submitted to Dave by 23rd April.
Having discussed all the core important elements to get things moving, the group went their separate ways, some to trains and car journeys, others to the pub (the Head of Steam, right on the train platform for convenience…).