March 5, 2018 — Revised and updated from the original post on November 10, 2017.
A slide deck from EDUCAUSE made the rounds on Twitter last week, with many folks expressing shock about libraries & their involvement (complicity) in learning analytics efforts on higher education campuses. But this isn’t new. Academic librarians have been talking about using library data to prove library value for quite a while. Over the past decade, the conversation has been held hostage by one particular professor who has made proving library value the exclusive focus of her scholarly research agenda.
As the old saying goes, if you’re not pissed off, you haven’t been paying attention.
To me, these are some of the significant milestones in the conversation about libraries and their involvement in learning analytics. (Emphasis on “to me” — your timeline might look a bit different!)
Megan Oakleaf, LIS professor at Syracuse University, publishes the Value of Academic Libraries Report, which was commissioned by ACRL. The report suggests that libraries should track individual student behavior to demonstrate correlations between library use and institutional outcomes, such as retention.
Value of Academic Libraries committee is formed by ACRL Executive Committee.
ACRL is awarded a $249,330 grant from IMLS to fund Assessment in Action: Academic Libraries and Student Success.
2013 – 2016
ACRL runs three 1-year cohorts of AiA projects. Assessment in Action aims to teach academic librarians how to collaborate with other stakeholders on their campuses to measure the library’s impact on student success. According to the AiA website: “The projects will result in a variety of approaches to assessing library impact on student learning which will be documented and disseminated for use by the wider academic library and higher education communities.”
Oakleaf teaches IST 600 “Academic Libraries: Value, Impact & ROI” at Syracuse University for the first time.
Bell publishes “Keeping Up With… Learning Analytics” on the ALA website.
Margie Jantti presents “Unlocking Value from Your Library’s Data” at the Library Assessment Conference. The presentation highlights how, among other metrics, the University of Wollongong correlated student performance with number of hours of using the library’s electronic resources.
Lisa Hinchliffe and Andrew Asher present “Analytics and Privacy: A Proposed Framework for Negotiating Service and Value Boundaries” at the Coalition for Networked Information Fall Membership Meeting.
Oakleaf publishes “The Library’s Contribution to Student Learning: Inspirations and Aspirations” in College & Research Libraries.
Jantti and Heath publish “What Role for Libraries in Learning Analytics?” in Performance Measurement and Metrics. The article describes how the integrated existing library analytics and student data (from the “Library Cube”) with institutional learning analytics efforts at the University of Wollongong.
College and Research Libraries News declares learning analytics one of the top trends in academic libraries.
Oakleaf publishes “Getting Ready & Getting Started: Academic Librarian Involvement in Institutional Learning Analytics Initiatives” in The Journal of Academic Librarianship.
I present “Can we demonstrate library value without violating user privacy?” at Colorado Academic Library Association Workshop in Denver.
Oakleaf secures nearly $100,000 in grant funding from IMLS for “Library Integration in Institutional Learning Analytics (LIILA)“. The full proposal can be read here.
ACRL Board discusses “patron privacy” and if, as a core value, it conflicts with support of learning analytics. The minutes record: “Confidentiality/Privacy is in ALA’s core values, and the Board agreed that patron privacy does not need to conflict with learning analytics, as student research can still be confidential.”
Also at Midwinter 2017, ACRL Board approves Institutional Research as an interest group to incorporate interest in Learning Analytics (but, notably, the Board did not want to name the group the “Learning Analytics” interest group). ACRL Board formally adopts the Proficiencies for Assessment Librarians and Coordinators which makes frequent reference to using learning analytics.
Oakleaf et al present “Data in the Library is Safe, But That’s Not What Data is Meant For” at ACRL 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Kyle M.L. Jones and Dorothea Salo’s article, “Learning Analytics and the Academic Library: Professional Ethics Commitments at a Crossroads“, is available as a preprint from College & Research Libraries.
Value of Academic Libraries committee meets at ALA Annual. The minutes reflect that VAL wants to distance itself from learning analytics, now that they have their own interest group.
ACRL publishes Academic Library Impact, which explicitly advocates for working with stakeholders to “statistically analyze and predict student learning and success based on shared analytics”.
Karen Nicholson presents her paper, “The ‘Value Agenda’: Negotiating a Path Between Compliance and Critical Practice“, at the Canadian Library Assessment Workshop in Victoria, British Columbia.
Oakleaf et al present “Closing the Data Gap: Integrating Library Data into Institutional Learning Analytics” at EDUCAUSE 2017 in Philadelphia. The presentation seems to advocate feeding individual patron data into campus-wide learning analytics dashboards so that other campus administrators, faculty, and advisors can see student interactions with the library.
Emily Drabinski asks, “How do we change the table?” In her blog post, she wonders how organizing can help librarians build power to make change. “We need to reject learning analytics,” she declares.
Penny Beile, Associate Director of Research, Education, and Engagement at the University of Central Florida Libraries, publishes “The Academic Library’s (Potential) Contribution to the Learning Analytics Landscape” on the EDUCAUSE blog.
April Hathcock responds to the ongoing learning analytics conversation with her own blog post about learning agency. Regarding the need to collaborate with students rather than simply surveil them, she writes, “Essentially, it’s the difference between exploiting a community to study and report on them versus collaborating with that community in studying their needs. It is the very essence of feminist research methods, rooted in an ethic of care, trust, and collaborative empowerment.”
Community college librarian Meredith Farkas questions the value of learning analytics in her column in American Libraries.
Kyle M.L. Jones and Ellen LeClere publish “Contextual Expectations and Emerging Informational Harms: A Primer on Academic Library Participation in Learning Analytics Initiatives” in Applying Library Values to Emerging Technology: Decision-Making in the Age of Open Access, Maker Spaces, and the Ever-Changing Library.
The Call for Proposals for the special issue of Library Trends about learning analytics and the academic library closes April 1. The issue will be published in March 2019.