Looking at the image above you could be forgiven for mistaking this for a (somewhat irregular) heartbeat. The blue line rhythmically moves up and down in a clear series of repeating patterns. The patterns you can see here are the patterns of student access in the DCS across the academic year, in fact across several academic years.
The timeline starts from September 2016 and ends in October 2019.
The pattern is easy to see.
Each year in September, as students start to arrive for their new school year, the level of access for content dramatically spikes. This is less evident in the first year, but many HEIs were still onboarding then and therefore not necessarily able to offer students DCS links.
The peak period for access each year is early October and then slowly reduces to Christmas when access stalls over the holidays.
There is then another peak in January once students return from the holiday with another small dip for Easter. A final extreme reduction occurs in June and lasts until September before the cycle begins again.
For many University libraries these patterns will be familiar for as long as they have had access to student access metrics and previously would have been known based on how many books are being checked out of the library. Understanding these patterns is essential for University libraries and acquisitions in ensuring that they have the resources available to cope with demand, and for third-parties it is essential to collect this data to ensure that systems are robust and there’s enough resource to deal with any issues that may occur.
But beyond the simple practicalities there is more that we can glean from this data to tell us about student habits and behaviour when it comes to accessing content. For example, we can see from this data that Christmas continues to have more access that the summer and that Easter has a higher access than both.
So, we see a pattern where students continue to study over the Christmas holidays, either preparatory reading for their January courses or studying for exams or essays due for the beginning of the next term. During Easter access is even more popular as students build up to final exams and course work (and usually Easter holidays are less socially distracting that Christmas and New Year). By the summer students switch off for the long break, with the low numbers perhaps being summer schools and postgraduate studies.
What other patterns can we see?
If we delve in deeper into the data, we can also see how students access content during a given week. Below are the figures for the most popular week this year for student access. You can see hear that Saturday has the least content access, Sunday and Friday are around the same, and then Tuesday. Monday is traditionally the most popular date for student access, and this can also be seen below. We can fill in why we might think this is (Monday is the beginning of the week; Saturday has neither classes that day or the next day), and we can use this data to ensure that we continue to support students in their access habits.
It should also be noted that this data is for extracts copied under the Licence. It may differ from how students access more in-depth content, such as eBooks. Chapters and articles are far easier to digest in one sitting, so this might be influencing what days are most popular for student access. It might be worth looking at other metrics and comparing how thes compare to Digital Copies of book chapters and journal articles in the DCS.
If you use the DCS you can find out your own student access metrics using the Downloads per Content Item report and selecting the date range you want to check.
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.
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