Library Integration in Institutional Learning Analytics White Paper Released

Library Integration in Institutional Learning Analytics,” a new white paper resulting from the IMLS-funded Library Integration into Institutional Learning Analytics (LIILA) grant, is now available. The paper provides the higher education community with a foundation for discussions about the role academic libraries may play in learning analytics efforts at the institutional level. ACRL Executive Director Mary Ellen Davis served on the Advisory Board for the grant, which included representatives from IMS Global Learning Consortium, EDUCAUSE, CNI, OCLC, the University of California-Berkeley, and DePaul University.

The paper envisions library involvement in learning analytics, describes facilitators and obstacles to library engagement in this important area in higher education, and suggests “next steps” for library participation in learning analytics. Learning analytics is rapidly proliferating throughout academia as a strategy for understanding and promoting student learning and success. Defined as the “collection and analysis of usage data associated with student learning…to observe and understand learning behaviors in order to enable appropriate interventions,” the growing emphasis on “learning analytics” has been recognized as a top trend in higher education in both the 2018 Horizon Report and ECAR’s Higher Education’s 2018 Trend Watch and Top 10 Strategic Technologies. Indeed, virtually all sectors of higher education are engaged in learning analytics initiatives.

Libraries are essential to the mission of higher education institutions, and librarians have long been dedicated to supporting and increasing student learning and success. Nevertheless, most academic libraries are not currently engaged in learning analytics initiatives at the institutional level. Based on their historical and persistent commitment to students, it seems likely that librarians will choose to participate in the maturing conversations about learning analytics in higher education and guide the ethical use of learning analytics to improve student success outcomes. This likelihood is underscored by the inclusion of learning analytics as a 2018 “top trend” in academic libraries. But what should library integration into learning analytics look like?  How might library engagement in learning analytics change the ways in which students interact with the library?  How might it highlight the value and impact of library services, resources, and facilities on student learning?  And most importantly, how might library involvement in institutional learning analytics increase student learning and success?

To address these questions, the LIILA project convened three meetings with academic library administrators, reference and instruction librarians, systems librarians, library technology administrators, library association leaders, and IT administrators, as well as learning analytics, library vendor, and learning standards representatives, to increase academic library participation in higher education learning analytics and prepare academic librarians to engage in this important use of data to support student learning and success. The results of the LIILA project, described in the white paper, include a number of strategies for supporting the initial engagement of librarians.

First, eight strategies were identified and deployed to help librarians and interested institutional partners envision library involvement in learning analytics. Second, paper identifies both facilitators of and obstacles to library involvement in learning analytics. Facilitators include intersecting pressures that either propel or enable higher education institutions to commit to learning analytics initiatives.

Librarians themselves may also serve as facilitators of library engagement in institutional learning analytics. Because of their history of data gathering, knowledge of data practices, commitment to ethical data use, ability to collaborate across institutional silos, potential role as lynchpins in student interventions focused on information use, and emerging corpus of research demonstrating the contributions of library interactions to student learning and success, librarians can become essential partners in learning analytics at an institutional level. A number of obstacles to library involvement in institutional learning analytics are surfaced as well, such as privacy concerns; data concerns related to quality, granularity, and access; and organizational culture.

Finally, “Library Integration in Institutional Learning Analytics” offers ten next steps for moving forward in this arena and provides a series of discussion questions and resources useful for continuing the conversation, including short reading lists, relevant privacy resources, and a list of pioneering efforts in this space. It is hoped that this report will stimulate discussions about the unique role libraries may play in institutional learning analytics, ultimately enabling libraries to take their place among institutional partners using learning analytics to support student learning and success.

Library Integration in Institutional Learning Analytics” is freely available online through the EDUCAUSE website.