Course Views Focus Groups (Spring 2007) | User Studies


In April 2007, three focus groups were conducted in support of the Course Views project in development by members of the Task Force on Library Content for the Next-Generation Learning Management System. Feedback from the focus groups would allow the Course Views team to make important decisions about content and interface development.

The focus group discussions centered on ranking and gaining feedback on functionality of various content chunks ("widgets") proposed for inclusion in the Course Views pages. Student feedback would enable staff to include the content that students find most helpful, and organize it in ways that appeal to them. Examples of widgets include: Finding Articles, Ask a Librarian, Citation Builder, Librarian Recommended (resources selected by subject specialists), Computer Availability map, etc.


Objectives for the Course Views focus groups were as follows:

  • To gain student feedback on a student-centric set of tools, services, and resources that the task force has considered for inclusion in Course Views
  • To solicit student suggestions about prioritization of Course Views content
  • To gain student perspectives on additional content that might be helpful to support courses and student task completion

Team and Partners

  • Kim Duckett, recruitment
  • Jim Ruth, moderator
  • Markus Wust, co-moderator

Focus Group Composition and Recruitment

Focus group best practices suggest that groups be fairly homogenous. Three distinct but homogenous groups of 5 students were recruited:

1. Juniors/seniors in humanities/social science majors.

Course Views are intended to support courses/coursework that involve research and library resources. As a result, it is important to gain feedback from students in majors which require students to do research using library resources. This strategy acknowledges that some courses do not have as much need for library resources.

2. Students in courses who actively use the existing "Library Resources" web pages in Vista.

Course Views are designed for integration into the online teaching and learning environment. Students were recruited from several courses which have a history of heavy use of library resources from within Vista. This group consisted of students across various majors and years.

3. Freshman/sophomores in general education courses involving library resource usage (ex. freshman composition).

The Course Views project intends to cull the best and most student-centric library resources out of the whole NCSU Libraries website and present a scaled-down entrance into the library. This group provided insight into how students early in their academic careers view this service.


Several key findings were obtained from conducting these focus groups. These findings include:

  • Students are very interested in the Course Views service, particularly in widgets that help them with writing papers and other course-related activities
  • Students are interested in the idea behind some existing services, such as the assignment calculator or course reserves, but want current implementations to be more user-friendly, offer additional functions, or be better integrated into existing systems
  • Students would ideally want just one interface for accessing course-related information and not the large variety of existing services, such as Vista, instructor-created course websites, reserves, etc.

Additional findings, as well as a summary table ranking Course Views widgets, may be found in the Course Views Handout.

Project Links

Last updated: December 2009