August 23, 2011

Library-GPA connection "statisically significant"

In 2010, the England’s University of Huddersfield shared results from its analysis of library usage data. Looking at the graduating grades of students in some 700 courses over four years and the number of e-resources they accessed, the number of books they borrowed and the number of visits to the University Library. They found a strong correlation between library usage and degree results. However, the correlation between library usage and grade had not been significance-tested and that it was not known whether the Huddersfield findings were an anomaly or the norm. As a result, eight universities launched studies to prove the hypothesis that:

‘There is a statistically significant correlation across a number of universities between library activity data and student attainment’

The researchers had a big, complicated task and recognized some pitfalls including:
  • library usage alone is not an indicator of how well students will score in their assignments,
  •  some students may only need a small amount of material to achieve high grades in some courses
  • certain disciplines have less need for books or electronic resources

Factoring in those considerations, they looked at each student who graduated in a given year, and tracked:
  • Final grade achieved
  • Number of books borrowed
  • Number of times e-resources were accessed
  • Number of times each student entered the library, e.g. via a turnstile system that requires identity card access
  • School/Faculty

Upon completion this summer, The Library Impact Data Project found statistically significant relationship between resource usage (both book loans and e-resources) use and student attainment. Where they didn’t find a statistical significance was in entries to the library, in other words just hanging out in the library didn’t improve grades.

The researchers were careful to point out that a statistical correlation between library use and grades is not a causal relationship

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