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The Deakin University Participation and Partnerships Program (DUPPP), funded by the Commonwealth Government, aims to improve the success and retention of undergraduate students from low socio-economic status (low SES) backgrounds.
This program has enabled Deakin University Library to investigate the challenges these students face in making effective use of library services and resources. Through the DUPPP Library project, Enhancing information access for cloud (online) students from diverse backgrounds, our research has identified that improving awareness and use of scholarly resources can contribute to students’ overall success and retention at university, and that the impact is greatest where library activities are an integral part of students’ academic curricula.
The project team:
This page provides academic teaching staff with an overview of the project strategies, outcomes and benefits and presents an invitation to work with library staff to support student success and retention.
Research has indicated that many students from low SES backgrounds and those living in remote areas face particular challenges when undertaking university studies in the online environment.
The overall average success rate for low SES students at Deakin is currently three percent lower than the overall student body (SIPU Success & Retention Report 2012).
The Library project Enhancing information access for cloud (online) students from diverse backgrounds was developed with the following goals:
An extensive literature review provided the following conclusions:
The following questions were developed from the research:
Analysis of interviews with 26 low SES students studying in cloud (online) mode has revealed a range of challenges they face in undertaking their courses and making effective use of library resources and services. However they also demonstrated strengths and strategies that provide a basis for more targeted support.
Based on a poster presented at the Association of Research Libraries, Library Assessment Conference, Charlottesville, VA, in 2012, the presentation below gives an insight into the nature and impact of these barriers and enablers.
With the increased focus on online courses delivered via Deakin’s learning management system (CloudDeakin) and literature indicating the best way to directly engage with students is via their unit environment, we have adopted an approach referred to as 'embedded library practice'.
Our approach to embedded library practice involves:
During 2012 and 2013, Liaison Librarians worked with six units identified as having significant proportions of students from low SES backgrounds. They were ASL219, HSH218, HSW219. HSW322, MMK266, SEB223.
As examples of these activities, Liaison Librarians have:
Various University assessment measures have endorsed the effectiveness of embedded library practice. Average SETU results in regard to library awareness and usage for the five target units have improved by nearly six percent during the engagement period. Average unit results, particularly for cloud (online) students, have also improved.
Insightful feedback from participating unit chairs and students is informing and refining this approach to building digital literacy capabilities.
A range of strategies have been developed from best practice in the literature and trialled using the experience of Liaison Librarians working with Deakin undergraduate units.
While Liaison Librarians have responsibility for a large number of units across their discipline areas, effective implementation of embedded library practice requires a careful selection of core units with research based assessments scaffolded across courses.
Liaison Librarians involved in the 2012-2013 trial implementations have developed, or adapted from the literature, a range of strategies for enhancing collaboration with relevant academic staff. These include regular meetings, attendance at course forums and meetings and regular postings of new or current materials and services.
Effective collaboration demands a comprehensive knowledge of unit content and expectations. Regular meetings with academic staff ensure library staff are aware of unit expectations and assessment goals.
Students need to feel a high level of trust in the ability of the Liaison Librarian to provide timely and appropriate support. This trust is based on effective initial and continuing communication across channels relevant to the unit mode. Examples of effective communication include video introductions, creation of Ask the Librarian discussion forums and use of social media tools.
It is important that the Liaison Librarian has an understanding of the students’ knowledge of digital literacy and any particular needs at the outset. Working in consultation with the unit chair, these may include short activities or quizzes, informal surveys, analysis of previous unit results or simply seeking the opinion of the unit chair. Formative evaluation can be an ongoing activity through the unit and serve as a guide for further activities.
Evaluating the effectiveness of the engagement is important for the ongoing success of the initiative and to facilitate continuous improvement. This evaluation includes both student engagement, unit chair feedback and Liaison Librarian reflections and practice.
The project team has produced a number of papers that report on the research basis of the project.
Hagel, P., Horn, A., Owen, S., & Currie, M. (2012) “How can we help? The contribution of university libraries to student retention”, Australian Academic & Research Libraries, vol. 43, no. 3, pp. 214-230 How can we help? The contribution of university libraries to student retention (PDF)
A peer-reviewed paper bringing together the findings of the Stage 1 literature review which highlights the need for a renewed approach to assessing library value and contribution to students’ academic outcomes.
Horn, A., Owen, S., & Currie, M. (2012) “Influencing student retention and success: a qualitative assessment of library use by distance education students from low socio-economic backgrounds”, Poster presented at Association of Research Libraries (ARL) Library Assessment Conference: Building Effective, Sustainable and Practical Assessment, Charlottesville, Virginia, October 29-31. Influencing student retention and success: a qualitative assessment of library use by distance education students from low socio-economic backgrounds (PDF, 2.5MB)
This award-winning poster graphically presented the barriers and enablers exhibited by low socio-economic status students that impacted on their academic performance and the lessons libraries can learn from these understandings.
Horn, A., Hagel, P., Maddox, A., Currie, M. & Owen, S. (2013). “Embedded Library Services: Beyond Chance Encounters for Students from Low SES Backgrounds.” Australian Academic & Research Libraries, vol. 44, no. 4 Embedded Library Services: Beyond Chance Encounters for Students from Low SES Backgrounds
This paper reports research that examined how the embedding of library services through the learning management system contributed to the experience of students from low SES backgrounds.
For more information about the DUPPP Library Project, please contact Sue Owen (Project Leader) or Michael Currie (Project Manager).
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