We’ve served a very diverse student body for some time, but we never definitively knew in what ways and to what extent. Our less visible student groups (online students, cohort students who come once a week for evening class, traditional students who just don’t come to the library) were mostly bypassing our general impressions. It was difficult to tell which of the people in our library building were students and which were non-students. Even if we could, a general impression is only so reliable.
One day this spring as we perused Concordia’s new internal-facing Website we happened upon the school’s Internal Research Reports. Curiosity about graduation rates led to poking around which reacquainted us with this valuable data source, some which was rather surprising. The need to share this with staff was obvious, but we thought that this information should be moved out of yearly reports comprised of tables and reported in the same way we were planning to report our usage statistics: longitudinally and visually. This treatment would allow us to update our perceptions, centralize data for better decision making, and reexamine processes.
We performed the data transfer and visualizations with Google Apps. Google is our school’s enterprise system, it is free, and its suite of software is highly integrated. That made it easy for us to create spreadsheets, graphs, and charts which we could then easily insert into a Google Site. Using Google Apps also helps us protect that info and decide how we will share it across our domain. The site we created ended up comprised mainly of charts and graphs, with a few data tables and annotations added for clarity. One of the harder parts of the process was maintaining consistent verbiage and coloration for variables across different charts.
Once the site was complete, we had reports for each node and subnode of this nested structure:
- Undergrad vs. Grad
- By College
- By Major
Departmental Enrollment and Degrees Granted Comparison
- College of Business and Organizational Leadership
- Criminal Justice
- College of Vocational Ministry
- Kinesiology and Health
- By College
- By Major
Graduation and Retention Rates
- National Comparison
Traditional v. Non-Traditional Enrollment
Undergraduate vs. Graduate Enrollment
Here are some loose classes of findings, and examples:
- Extent: How many students are LCMS Lutherans? How many are earned a degree in Art last year?
- Gradation: How many undergraduate students are below the age of 22? How many Education majors are graduate students?
- Longitudinal: How has the proportion of graduate and undergraduate students changed over the last ten years?
- Comparison: Does a drop in database usage which specializes in X coincide with a drop in majors enrolled to study X?
- Trends: When might we expect graduate students to make up 50% of the student body headcount? FTE?
- Headscratchers: Why have students become more likely to disclose their race, but less likely to disclose their religious affiliation in the last 3 years?
We look forward to having this on hand at all times to inform decision making. Already this work has helped us reshape our budget allocations in general, and it will continue to do so at an even more granular level as we go forward. Format considerations will be informed by the types of users in each program. Combined with our database and circulation statistics, the user data will aid us in estimating library cost for each program. This data will also inform our outreach strategies and could impact staffing decisions. As we add more areas to our Internal Research site – InterLibrary Loan, Serials, Library Instruction – more complex comparisons will be possible. As promising as all these analyses are, it also feels great to be able to say, “yes, we know who our users are.”