Tresham College of Further and Higher Education: Opening up access to library borrowing data to increase usage of learning resources
An Excellence Gateway case study
Published: 12 April 2010
This case study was produced by JISC Regional Support Centre for East Midlands on behalf of the Excellence Gateway.
Sector relevance: Further education and Sixth Form colleges
Keywords: Improving teaching and learning, improving institutional effectiveness, learning resources centre (LRC), data, management of learning resources, value-added measure (data), reviewing learners' progress, retention improvement strategies, progression rates, progress monitoring, achievement rates, management information system, self-assessment report evaluation (inspection preparation), using data (inspection preparation)
Tresham College of Further and Higher Education has introduced learning resources loan data into the main College reporting system, which has allowed all staff to see the information. This has encouraged the closer integration of learning resources with the curriculum. As one of a series of innovations this has helped almost double the amount of resources borrowed by learners.
About Tresham College of Further and Higher Education
Tresham is a college of further and higher education with campuses in Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough in Northamptonshire and The Rutland College in Oakham.
Tresham has an annual income of over £23 million and over 10,000 part-time and full-time learners. It officially opened a brand new £20 million campus in Kettering in April 2008.
When Simon Sykes joined the College as Library and Learning Resources Manager, he noticed that the number of items being borrowed from the learning resources centre (LRC) had reached a plateau and was even in danger of declining. Simon was keen to increase the level of borrowing and to get the LRC more involved in supporting the curriculum.
Simon was aware of the impact that effective LRCs can have on learner attainment, as has been shown through the Colorado Studies and other American studies, which demonstrated how effective LRCs can make a significant difference to academic attainment and value-added scores.
Simon was, therefore, keen to put the processes in place at Tresham to bring these benefits to the learners.
As a starting point, College reports that went to the parents of learners were changed to include generic details of books and other resources borrowed by the learner, but these details were not being made available to teaching staff. So the challenge was, what could be done to bring this information to the attention of the teaching staff?
The LRC staff, therefore, came up with the idea of providing the data on learner borrowing to all staff via the college Reporting System. This would help show teaching staff and management what was being borrowed, and by whom, within a tool that they were already familiar with.
The home-grown College Reporting System (CRS) at Tresham College is an important tool which the College uses to record enrolment, attendance and achievement. It therefore made sense for any library borrowing data to be provided through it.
Matthew Raby from the MIS (Management Information Systems) team worked on getting reports from the library management system, Heritage, into the CRS.
After a day Matt had created an initial draft of how the information might be presented with the CRS using "grouped" data sets.
As with any set-up there were a few initial quirks, such as withdrawn students not showing up in the data counts. After a couple of weeks the reports were refined sufficiently to be reliable and the data from borrowing records was inserted into the CRS. In total it took about three weeks of work over the initial three-month period to set-up the system in its entirety.
Image 2: Borrowing data from the Library Management system has been integrated into the college Reporting System
All the staff at Tresham are now able, through the CRS to see what learners have been borrowing – the library information just appears as another option in the choices in the navigation. The reports work as drill-down reports, so staff can search down through the borrowing data to the level that they require:
- by school
- by site/campus
- by programme area
- by full-time/part-time study
- by course
- by individual learner.
Image 2: All staff can see borrowing information in a variety of viewing options
As well as books and other resources in the libraries the Library Management System is set-up to record the usage of PCs in the libraries. This has meant that information on computer usage levels is also contained in the reporting.
The information in the CRS is updated on a weekly basis. Gavin Brindley, Assistant College Librarian, takes an export of the borrowing data from the Heritage System. Matt then integrates the data into the CRS. It is possible to pay for an automated report, but in light of budgetary constraints and the relatively small amount of work involved, the College has proceeded with this free method.
To help inform staff in the College of this new function there has been a co-ordinated series of internal promotional activities:
- presentations to Heads of Schools and the College Management team;
- individual training to all the LRC staff so that they are comfortable with handling any queries;
- a rolling programme of presentations to the different schools; and
- one-to-one discussions with lecturing staff, as and when they visit the LRCs at the different campuses.
Having access to this new data has meant that tutors can now take some new approaches with their learners. They can:
- provide overall guidance to a group of learners on what resources they should consider;
- investigate whether a learner with a poor performance record also has a poor borrowing record and, if there is a correlation, guide them to appropriate resources that would help;
- in tutorials – as a point of discussion and as a way of checking that students are undertaking wider reading;
- in Progress Review week – tutors are now able to look at borrowing records of individual learners and discuss with them where appropriate, eg showing them how to turn a pass into a merit; and
- Heads of Schools have also been using the borrowing information in their Self-Assessment Reviews (SARs) and in setting SMART targets for learners to contribute to "Value-added" measures.
Image 3: Teaching staff can help their learners based on what they've been borrowing from the LRC
Feedback from teaching staff has been positive:
“I have used the book loan statistics with my learners and it has been useful to see which books they have used. This has allowed the group to recommend resources to each other and has led to increased book borrowing which has benefited the learners in achieving their objectives. It has also allowed me to identify areas for stock development in partnership with the LRC Staff.”
Tracey Burrows, Programme Co-ordinator, School of Business and Professional Studies
"The ability to monitor, via the College Reporting System, the books the HND Graphic Communication students have accessed from the LRC has been extremely useful. In tutorial sessions the importance of contextualisation for all practical modules as well as the more academic Visual and Material Culture module is often emphasised and they are encouraged to research using a wide diversity of material. There is a direct link to student grades and the amount of books they are taking out and lack of use is discussed with learners who are currently gaining poor grades.
“Students who use the LRC to its fullest – including the university internet research sites and read the excellent range of creative journals are more articulate, enthusiastic about the subject and have a more independent approach to their study – the latter is particularly important if they wish to go onto Year Three at our partner higher education institutions."
Carol Parfitt, Lecturer from the School of Creative Arts and Media
For LRC staff the change has had several positive consequences:
- it has moved the responsibility for using library resources on to all staff rather than just LRC staff;
- the borrowing information has proved a useful starting point for discussion with curriculum areas and allowed LRC staff increased access and participation, which in turn has enabled them to demonstrate other services provided by the LRC, eg Information Skills sessions and e-resources; and
- an element of competition in the use of resources has developed between different schools, leading to increased uptake.
Simon Sykes, Library and Learning Resources Manager, describes how it has helped:
"I can now go and visit a Head of School or tutor and we'll sit down and look at the borrowing information. I can then ask them questions on whether we are holding the right stock for their course or programmes; and whether we need to change the focus of Information Literacy sessions.
"I can also take the information to our Learner Forums where the data has prompted some interesting discussions."
Simon Sykes, Library and Learning Resources Manager
Opening up access to this type of information has helped Tresham College to increase borrowing levels considerably in the 2009 Autumn Term. Overall levels were almost double that of the corresponding term from the previous year.
This innovation was one of a number employed by the LRC in a push to improve the level of usage, so it's not possible to single out its specific contribution to the increase, but anecdotally it is felt to have been a major factor.
Other innovations have been; a re-arrangement of the physical layout of the LRCs; introduction of subject champions; a revised induction to the LRC and an information literacy push within the College.
Overall the increased use of resources has helped to:
- push up levels of attainment;
- direct learners to higher quality materials, therefore, saving them time; and
- improve the progression of learners.
Judi Millage from the JISC Regional Support Centre in the East Midlands was impressed with the work at Tresham:
"This simple and effective integration of library statistics into the College's reporting system has not only helped to promote the LRC and raise its profile within College, but has also enabled LRC staff to engage more closely with the curriculum and target support more effectively."
Judi Millage, JISC Regional Support Centre for East Midlands
Developments to the system are already being considered. Statistics on the use of e-resources aren’t currently incorporated into the reporting tool, but as the level of use is increasing, Simon is keen to include this information.
Also under consideration is the creation of a report that will identify which members of staff have, or have not, been using the function in the CRS. This will then enable library staff to target those staff not using the system to ensure that they are aware of the data that is now at their fingertips.
- Download a PowerPoint presentation by Tresham College of Further and Higher Education on its integration of library data into the college Reporting System.
- Tresham College of Further and Higher Education website
- Colorado and other US Studies measuring the impact of LRCs on academic attainment and value added
- JISC Regional Support Centre for East Midlands website
- For more information about this case study, email the East Midlands JISC Regional Support Centre.
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