Library Course Tools Usage Patterns: Visualizing Library Data

Fall 2008-Fall 2009


Since 2008, custom logs have tracked the use of the Library Course Tools application, which dynamically generates student-centric views of library resources and tools for each unique course taught at NCSU. This project examines both aggregate and semester-based patterns in usage of the Course Views application from Fall 2008 through Fall 2009.

Research Questions

  • How has the usage of Library Course Tools changes since the launch in Fall Semester 2008?
  • How does Library Course Tools usage fluctuate over the course of the semester?
  • What are the most and least used curricula?
  • What widget content is most useful to students?


Usage data for the Course Views page is tracked through custom logging. The information in the log includes a timestamp (from which the date, time, and day can be gathered), whether the user accessed a course page or a widget, as well as which course and/or which widget was accessed. The visualizations were built using Google Visualization API. PHP was used to create the custom log and to prepare the log data for input into Google Visualization API.

Visualizations and Findings

Trends in use over time

Over the three semesters that it has been available (excluding Summer Sessions), Course Views has become increasingly popular, with a 39% increase in use from Fall 2008 (21,000 total hits) to Spring 2009 (29,000 total hits) and a 28% increase in use from Spring 2009 to Fall 2009 (37,000 total hits).

trends in use by semester

Trends in use by semester week

Course Views receives the heaviest use in the beginning of the semester, which could be due to students downloading course reserves. Reserves are the most used features of the application, and 25% of all reserves accessed in Fall 2009 were in the first two weeks of the semester.

After an initial three weeks of high usage during the semester, there is a period of moderate usage for approximately eight weeks. There is a particularly sharp decline in use during Spring and Fall break (the 8th or 9th week of each semester). From there, usage decreases again until finals week, when it drops off dramatically.

trends in use by semester week

Trends in curricula use

Humanities and social sciences curricula make up most of the Course Views usage, though this is skewed by the fact that the top three most used curricula make up over 36% of total usage. Out of the top ten curricula, half are in fact non-humanities curricula.

Customization and promotion of Course Views pages by subject librarians may play a significant role in the pages' actual use. This prediction is based on usage patterns for some highly customized Chemical Engineering courses.

7% (11) of all 163 curricula accessed make up 59% of all Course Views use; the other 93% (152) of curricula represent 41% of use.

NOTE: Currently, enrollment data is not included in this metric. Because these numbers are not currently weighted based on how many students are enrolled in each curriculum's courses, a curriculum with high relative usage may not be recognized. Work to correct this is in progress.

trends in curricula use

Trends in course use

Over the life of the Course Views project, pages for over 3,600 unique courses have been accessed.

The number of unique courses accessed via Course Views has increased by 45% (1,475 to 3,614) since the application's release.

The number of courses accessed more than 100 times per semester has increased by 60% (43 to 69) since the application's release.

trends in curricula use

Trends in widget use

Over a quarter of all widget use is for the Course Reserves widget. Recommended Content, Technology Lending and Article Search are also used heavily.

Half of the widgets available in Course Views are barely used, comprising only 11% of total widget use.

Widgets with high usage contain dynamic content (for example, Reserves, Recommended Content, and Article Search are all customized to the course or curriculum). On the other hand, widgets such as Citation Tools, Projects Tools, Contact Us are all static widgets. As a result, the product team is currently developing ideas for replacing these static widgets with more dynamic content.

NOTES: Use of the chat widget is logged separately and not included here at this time.
The high use of the device widget is inflated by the slideshow-style display.

trends in widget use

Trends in chat reference

Over the three semesters that it has been available (excluding Summer Sessions), Course Views chat reference has become increasingly popular, with a 64% increase in use from Fall 2008 to Spring 2009 and a 121% increase in use from Spring 2009 to Fall 2009.

Course Views chat reference transactions accounted for 12% of all chat reference transactions in Fall 2009.

trends in chat reference

Last updated: October 20, 2010