Since the inception of the DCS, HEIs using the platform have been able to review the number of times each link to course content has been accessed. This was available for a specific date range in order to target particular days, weeks, months or terms.
This is important for seeing basic engagement with content. Which courses have the best content views to student number averages? Which courses might not be accessing content at all? Are lecturers using DCS links as required, or downloading the material and emailing it or saving as PDF?
The ability to look at this has enabled users to check that content is being accessed and to what degree. CLA have used these numbers at a high level to see overall usage of the material within the DCS, to ensure that the system remains robust, especially in peak times of the year. The graph below shows a sample breakdown of the patterns that emerge when looking at the data over long periods of time.
But now that the DCS offers even greater insights, how can these features be taken further?
When using the Student Reader and using our new Downloads per Content Item – Length of Access report, the following metrics are now available from the DCS:
- Page range
- Number of downloads to PDF
- Number of prints
- Length of time accessed
From this report you can see how material is accessed via the reader within a date range of you choosing. You can also see how the material is used. As well as views, you have downloads to PDF in the Reader, and prints from within the reader, as well as the total length of time material has been accessed in the reader.
This report includes course details, bibliographic details, student numbers and lead lecturer information, allowing users to probe into the data and compare to other values.
So now we can see engagement and how material is being used. How long are students reading the material for? How often do they rely on downloading to a PDF or printing off a paper copy? Does downloading and printing affect the length of time accessed?
This level of detail can be really interesting, but could be daunting, especially for users who have small digitisations teams. For these teams, it may be worth spreading the load and forwarding this information onto academics or (even better) subject librarians/faculty leaders?
Currently the easiest way to do this is to decide how you want to break down the data to efficiently split it: by course? By Subject Librarian? By Academic? If the latter two are the answer, ensure that this person is the lead lecturer for your course (the hierarchy can be changed under ‘Courses’ tab and selecting ‘Update’ against the correct course). Otherwise you can add any other users or value using a VLookup from the HEI Report (using the link as a unique value).
Once the field has been chosen, select all the data on the tab and click Pivot, under the Insert tab in Excel.
Once pivoted, enter the newly created tab and ensure, under PivotTable Fields, that the field required is included in both the Rows and Values as a ‘Count’, which is the default. An example where the field is course code is below. Now double click on each count and this will open in a new tab, with all the fields included. Send each tab to the correct person.
Above: Using Excel’s Pivot function.
Now that the interested parties have access to the data, what can they do with it?
The answer is anything they want, really! But I do have a couple of recommendations. Firstly, as discussed at the start of this article, why not check that material is being used on those courses, and then check the VLEs or Reading Lists of any courses with zero or very low values to see if DCS links are being made available? Sometimes, unusual stats have a simple answer.
However, there is also an opportunity to get into the detail of these metrics to see how different items are being accessed for different courses and, by using this data, you should consider how the metrics might allow you to review the setups of Reading Lists and Coursepacks under your institution's VLE.
For example, is access to content affected by the structure or hierarchy of a reading list or VLE? Students may be encouraged or put off by different hierarchies of content. Does the placement of content affect access? Factors like this can be tested to make you better informed of potential issues. This data could be used to reformat Reading Lists and VLEs to best present content so that students are more likely to access them and, therefore, have a better understanding of their chosen subject.
There are other factors, of course, such as practicality, ethics and responsibility. But never forget that the data is there in the DCS, waiting to be used. It’s just up to you to decide how to apply it.
Getting academics and other HE staff to engage with these analytics can also be very important to their teaching and learning, even if only to see the patterns of how students engage with material. It's critical to give them a better understanding of the material that they are asking students to utilise.
This data can be used to enhance how material is offered to students and improve the overall engagement of students with their course reading.
Some of the details above about accessing and distributing this data will be explored further in a webinar, Getting the Most out of your Data 2, there will also be a brand new Knowledgebase article.
Getting to know the DCS
If you’re new to the DCS, you can head to cla.co.uk/sign-up to subscribe to various CLA news subjects, including a dedicated list just for DCS users. Being part of this group means receiving monthly emails detailing upcoming DCS-related blogs and webinars, and being quick to hear any new developments or news related to the DCS. You will also receive an invitation to a DCS Webinar each month. These webinars are specifically designed to cover topics important to DCS users. They may be aimed at helping new staff come to grips with the system, or offering more in-depth advice to those who are already DCS veterans. We will frequently have sessions tailored for independent and smaller HEIs, and every webinar has the chance for you to ask questions and receive answers straight from the horse’s mouth. Everyone who registers receives a link to the recording after the webinar, so it’s worth signing up even if you can’t commit to the live hour.
I have worked on the DCS since its inception and had the pleasure of watching the platform go from strength to strength. Last July, the DCS hit a milestone of 100 HEIs using the system. This was accompanied by over 3.5 million student downloads of content. This was made possible by our users, who are always ready to provide feedback and make the DCS better.
About the Author
David has been a Product Manager for the DCS at CLA since August 2017, previously working in the Education and Operations Teams in CLA since 2008. Outside of work David enjoys writing, reading, gaming (currently obsessed with the new Red Dead Redemption), and films.
This blog post was orirginaly published in the Winter 2018 CITE Magazine.