Engaging students: feedback in libraries and universities

Ian Clark shares lessons learned at three UK universities on gathering and using student feedback.

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Engagement - a conversation with users

Earlier this year I spoke at a CPD25 event about how social media could be used in obtaining feedback and engaging with users.  (You can read more about my presentation here.)  Three other speakers shared their experiences of gathering and using student feedback.

 'Tell Us' - Anglia Ruskin University's engagement activities

Anglia Ruskin's renewed focus on student engagement and feedback emerged as a result of disappointing student survey results.  Recognising a clear need to act, a working group was formed which ensured that every faculty and support service was represented.  This was an important move as it ensured that staff across the university were engaged and involved in the move to address the survey results.

A number of tools were employed as a result of the focus provided by the working group.  Amongst them were students acting as mystery shoppers and a student charter outlining expectations, which is monitored and reviewed across the year. In 2009, the library launched its 'Tell Us' feedback scheme which encouraged students to feed back on their experiences of using the library service by completing a form and posting it in one of numerous post boxes placed around campus.

Whilst the response was initially slow, the introduction of webforms and a telephone number (as well as an email address and the paper form) and the promotion of the service during National Customer Service Week, led to a big increase in uptake by students.  The latter in particular encouraged students to provide face-to-face feedback and did much to raise awareness of the scheme. 

As well as encouraging feedback, Anglia Ruskin also communicated with students to demonstrate that they were acting on the feedback they had received through a 'you said...we did' service.  As well as communicating the things they did do, they ensured that if they weren't able to act on feedback provided, the reasons were explained clearly. 

Overall, the scheme appears to have been a great success in both obtaining feedback and in engaging with students.  However, Anglia Ruskin is conscious that without freshening things up a little, the posters and activity can become 'wallpaper'. It will be interesting to see what new initiatives they come up with!

The David Wilson Library, Leicester University - Outstanding Library Team of the Year

Jo Aitkins of the University of Leicester Library talked about how an award winning library obtains and uses student feedback.  The University's library team was named as Outstanding Library Team of the Year 2012 in the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards.  It scored 90% in student surveys.  

Focus groups are run with departments across the university to talk to students and obtain their feedback. Sometimes the feedback will focus specifically on the department itself, sometimes on the library and that dialogue has been a big help in understanding the needs of their students and users and, most importantly, taking action to address these needs.

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