How Do You Count That?: Statistical Reporting of Online Library Instruction Activities

Presenters: Tim Bottorff and Andrew Todd, University of Central Florida


Presentation of results of a survey sent out to various academic library listserves gathering information about how statistics for online library instruction are counted. It’s clear that there are no real guidelines and that libraries are recording these in a varity of ways that may be skewing face-to-face instruction and reference statistics or in many the work involved in online instruction is being under-report or not acknowledged at all. The surveyors concentrated on asynchronous instruction including embedded librarianship, tutorials, and for-credit distance library classes. The conclusion was online interaction is has unique characteristics (for example, a discussion forum exchange of posts between a student and a librarian may appear to be a one-to-one reference type exchange but may also be read by other students in the class and may instruct multiple individuals) and doesn’t fit well with ACRL and ARL’s out-of-date guidelines for recording library instruction and reference work. One session audience member suggested that as we move away from gathering information about what we put into instruction to what impact we create (assessment and outcomes), the old guidelines seem very out-of-date. This may be particularly true in the online realm where one instructional activity such as the creation of a tutorial can impact multiple users over a period of time.

Survey to examine 3 areas of online instruction stats reporting:

  1. embedded
  2. tutorials
  3. online video

Task force at University of Central Florida
– to be fair and consistent in reporting statistics

Almost nothing published about this topic

Follow guidelines of ACRL but geared for F2F
 – one on one – reference
 – class meeting multiple times – count more than one class but participants only once

Count if analogous to F2F situation
– had to prove that students actually participated in order to count it

Survey design
– 14 question survey – available in conf. preceedings
– didn’t look at synchronous online interactions

online tutorial

IRB approval
sent to listserves

307 usable responses

Public 64%
Private 34%
Other 2%

Nice mix of institutions type and size

All over the map as to how to count this statistically

Online Tutorials
– most didn’t count as instruction
– many don’t know and don’t count it

Value of tutorial is creating once and using multiple times in multiple ways

Statistics are important in telling our story for funding and value

ARL and ACRL need to do something about this and help define

Online instruction has been around for a long time – why is this lagging?

Online For-Credit Courses

Most just treat it as something very separate
Many librarians teach this as separate from their librarian job

Exploratory survey – call to action for ACRL/ARL to put up standards

A lot of varience
Counted for a significant amount of my time