Tuesday, 11 May 2010

IC Evaluation

Yesterday afternoon we had a presentation from our Information Commons Manager on an evaluation of the building, three years after it opened. Three years - difficult to believe it's been that long - there's a whole generation of students here now who don't remember life without it. It's been extremely popular - and definitely a victim of its own success. Students will queue for a PC or printer here, rather than walk 5 minutes to empty PC rooms. The evaluation report is very full, and has collected and analysed data from many sources - the library system, the entry/exit system, PC, printer, and software monitoring software. In addition, students have had their say on the facilities through feedback forms, comments cards, focus groups, satisfaction surveys and interviews, as well as Facebook and YouTube. For me, the most exciting thing about it has been seeing a whole new way of studying, in a more collaborative way. Group study rooms and group tables are always full, and students will pull chairs up to study spaces to be together. There have been issues of course - students not quite being sure of how to behave in different areas, and how to use the various areas for different types of study. The concept of quiet for example has different meanings for different people, and depends to a certain extent on your expectations.

We have also had some - but given the level of occupancy and it 24 by 7 opening not many - behaviour problem from students. These have been mainly around how the building is treated - litter, empty food packets left around, furniture damaged, the odd chinese takeaway consumed in the group rooms. And complaints from other students about PCs being "reserved - logged into and then left - and too much Facebook and not enough academic work. But - they admit they are their own worst enemies - one student admitted in an interview that for every student she complained about using Facebook, she was that student the next day.

Speaking personally, my only real disappointment is the lack of engagement from some academic staff, many of whom have never been in it. But, all in all , the building has been a resounding success - due in no small part to the staff who work in it who have been (and continue to be) excellent, and have shown that two departments (ourselves and the Library) can work together to run an outstanding service.

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