Measuring Student Success at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

In last week’s blog posting, I mentioned the work the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus has been doing in collecting data to measure student success.  A summary of their project located on their blog states that their initial focus will be on undergraduates and the following questions:

  • How does use of print and digital collections correlate with course pass/fail rates, grades, or GPA?
  • How does use of instructional tools or attendance at instruction sessions correlate with course pass/fail rates, grades, or GPA?
  • Is there a correlation between library use and university retention measures?
  • Are there significant trends in departmental use (including use by students in various majors) of library resources and services?
  • Are students who use library instructional resources more or less likely to use library collections (print or digital)?

The project is being managed by a team of  University library staff members working closely with members in their Office of Institutional Research.  Team members are:

  • Shane Nackerud, Director, Web Development
  • Jan Fransen, Engineering Librarian
  • Kate Peterson, Information Literacy Librarian
  • Kristen Mastel, Outreach & Instruction Librarian
  • Krista Soria, Office of Institutional Research, Analyst
  • David Peterson, Office of Institutional Research, IT Professional

Their project encompasses several sections on Learning in the research agenda of the Value report, including student retention as well as student achievement.  As they showed in their presentation, they were able to examine 5,638 first year students and demonstrate that in that group,  students who used the library at least once were 1.54 times more likely to re-enroll.   Readers may refer to an earlier posting (March 12)  about Presidents and Provosts and the fact that among “84% of the provosts surveyed” “improving retention and degree completion as one of the top five challenges.”  This is a great example of demonstrating the impact that the library has at our institutions.

All members of the team, except David Peterson,  participated in the presentation held on April 27th.  A complete copy of their presentation will be found on their blog site.

There was a lively discussion after their presentation with a few members of the audience expressing concerns about privacy.  Shane has a blog posting as a response to that discussion that provides more details about what the University is using without violating privacy.  So for example, while they do not keep a record of the titles of the books checked out, they are able to retain how many books have been checked out.    “For the first time, we are retaining some user information in order to find out 1) who our users are, 2) what types of resources they use, and 3) how this use impacts their success in the classroom.” [A Word About Privacy, May 1, 2012] 

The University intends to continue with data collection this spring and explore additional issues.  More information on their work will be found on their blog. I am very much looking forward to their next presentation with further results of their studies.

In the meantime, are issues of privacy a factor in your ability to collect information on your campus?  Are you encountering barriers that are preventing you from gathering and making similar correlations?  Have you established a good working relationship with members of your Institutional Research department?  Or do you have stories of similar success that you’d like to share?

Please let us know what you are doing by filling out our survey, located on the right sidebar, or go directly to the survey here.

Surveys of Provosts and Presidents – their concerns, the Value report, and possible connections on your campus

In March, Inside Higher Ed released an “inaugural” Survey of College & University Chief Academic Officers.  This report was the fourth in a series of surveys of senior academic leaders with the three other reports conducted in 2011 focusing on admissions officers, chief business officers, and presidents.   While all the reports provide information on what the key issues of concern are for our institutional leaders, I want to focus on the reports of our CAOs and presidents.  The two reports of interest are:

The CAO survey had 1081 participants, while the survey of Presidents had 956 participants.  There is no information that can confirm that both the CAO and President from the same institution were in the majority for the respondents. So, the respondents for each report could be from different institutions.  However, the point of discussing these surveys relates to an article summarizing the findings of the presidents survey in which it was stated, “[i]n only one category — library resources and services — did a majority of all presidents (and a bare majority at that: 51 percent) rate the technology investment as “’very effective.’”  You can read the entire article here:

The good news was that presidents rated the technology investment as “very effective”,  but in a perhaps interesting difference, 60% of the presidents at public 4- year undergraduate institutions rated it “very effective” while only 46% of the presidents at private institutions gave it the same rating.  That’s a pretty significant difference.  As I’m a librarian in a private undergraduate institution, it caught my attention.

In comparison, in the provost report that was released in March of this year, they were also asked to rate the overall effectiveness of investment in information technology.  The provosts, as did the presidents, rated the IT investments to support the library highest.  58% of the provosts ranked it first, compared to 51% of the presidents.  Again there was a distinction between publics and privates with 60% of the public undergraduate CAOs  versus 50% of the privates giving it the highest rating.   Again, the overall good news is that the library resources and services received the highest rating in terms of effectiveness when compared to other technology investments on campus.

Both reports are worth reading because of the information that is shared in the surveys, but it also important to read to what presidents and provosts consider to be the major challenges facing their institutions.  For example 84% of the provosts surveyed consider improving retention and degree completion as one of the top five challenges.

In the Value report, in the section on Student Retention and Graduation Rates [page 32-35]it is pointed out that “lower retention rates can mean higher costs per degree conferred” [p32] and in all of the reports that have been produced by Inside Higher Ed, costs are a key factor and area of concern.  So how can libraries demonstrate their value in improving retention rates and helping to contribute to keeping costs down?

One of the contributing factors as expressed in the Value report in terms of  why students choose to leave an institution is the issue that they don’t develop a personal connection with their institution.  [p.33] Here’s an opportunity for us because we know that librarians can be very influential in the first year of study and by helping to cultivate a personal connection with students we could be the ones to help them feel engaged and attached to the institution.   Think in terms of your orientation programs, or introduction to library research sessions that you conduct for first year students.  This is but one area in which we could collect data and start to seriously document how our early and frequent contact with students contributes to their establishing a connection and thus contributes to retaining them as students.  See the Research Agenda section, pages 107-109, for other data points that could be used to help establish correlations between use of library services and student retention rates.  And if you begin to engage in these types of activities, share with us what your findings are.

If nothing else, read the reports and consider establishing contacts with your key academic leaders if you haven’t already.  Perhaps this is an opportunity to establish liaison services for senior institutional administrators.  Invite them to talk about the issues that concern them and determine if there are other means that you have to help demonstrate how you can assist them in addressing the issues that they consider particularly critical.  Your key takeaway is that the reports demonstrate that of the provosts and presidents who responded to the survey they consider the library resources to be a key investment.  Your work is to demonstrate that the investment has payoffs in areas of their highest concerns, which could be student retention on your campus.