Benefits of Activity data to Enhance and Increase Open-access Usage (AEIOU)
In order to identify the benefits of the work that AEIOU had undertaken some focus groups which established the value of recommendation systems to users. Though, it may be important to note that the undergraduate and postgraduate students had different priorities and different views about who they wanted recommendations from.
The focus group comprised six undergraduate students, three studying level 1 courses, 3 at level 2. Two had previously studied several modules up to level 3. The students were studying a range of subjects. The group were asked if they would make use of recommendations.
There was a general consensus that ratings and reviews from other students would be beneficial (because ‘other people’s experiences are valuable’) especially if it was known which module the student leaving the rating had done, and how high a mark they had got for their module.
This focus group was made up of five postgraduate students (one of whom was also a member of staff) studying a range of different subjects through arts, science, social sciences and educational technology. The main feedback was that:
- Students use citation information as a form of recommendation
- Students are wary of recommendations when they do not know the recommender eg tutor recommendations are valued
- It was felt that recommendations specific to a module should be fed through to that module’s website eg for good databases
- Students would appreciate recommendations of synonyms when searching our collections e.g. stress/anxiety
- Resources from the institutional repository are trusted as authors can be contacted (this comment from a student who is also a member of staff)
Reflections on the comments in the focus groups
Knowing the provenance of a recommendation is clearly important and that seems to be a clear difference between academic recommendations and an ‘amazon-type’ purchasing recommendation. There is a critical element of trust that is needed. You could characterise it as ‘I don't know whether to trust this information until I know more about who or where it comes from’ That implies a good level of academic caution about the quality of resource recommendations. So that is possibly a qualification to our hypothesis
“That recommender systems can enhance the student experience in new generation e- resource discovery services”
‘Qualification 1 … as long as it is clear where the recommendations come from and users have trust in their quality’
While both undergraduates and postgraduates demonstrated the importance of trusting the source of the recommendation there were differences in how that trust might be established. For undergraduates trust came from the success of their peers making the recommendations, whilst postgraduates wanted recommendations from people that they trust. This may be to do with undergraduates having a proxy for trust that they are willing to use.