Semester one pilots: an update

PhotoFunia-6959e6f The University of Manchester Library launched 12 e-book pilots at the start of semester one last year. So far, anecdotal feedback from academics and students has been very positive but we know that we will need much more rigorous analysis of the value of the pilots – financially and pedagogically – if we are to build on the project. To this end, we are assessing the effectiveness of the pilots using the following information:

  • Analytical usage data from the technology intermediary, VitalSource
  • Survey data from students on the 12 modules
  • Consultations with the academics leading the modules

We are collating the responses from students and staff and will report on these over the coming months but we do have some initial usage data back from VitalSource:

  • The proportion of students opting to access and download (“redeem”) the e-books in the pilots ranges from 21.3% to 88.5%
  • Of these redemptions, the proportion of students who have actually used the book at least once ranges from 11% to 87.6%
  • Very few students are using the advanced functions – such as highlighting and note-taking – with most simply accessing the text online
  • The majority of the page views are via PC or laptop and very few students accessed the texts via mobile devices (smartphones, tablets etc)

While access and subsequent use of e-books across the pilots followed expected patterns (with the highest levels of access in disciplines that rely most on core texts and directed reading), use of the added value features – such as downloading onto personal devices and note-taking functionality – was a lot lower than anticipated.

It is too early to draw any definite conclusions as many of the pilots will run for the whole academic year. We will need to do some more analysis when the final results are in – there may be a spike in usage for the recent January exam period, for example. Nevertheless, these initial findings will inform the way we implement the semester two pilots and work with the academics involved.

Based on our findings, our main objective will be to make sure that students are downloading the e-books rather than just accessing them online. Perpetual access to the texts and the enhanced functionality are only available to students when they download the books onto a device. We want to make sure students get the maximum benefit from these deals… and avoid any nasty surprises at the end of their modules when the core text suddenly disappears!

3 thoughts on “Semester one pilots: an update

  1. Thanks for sharing, really interesting insights! I wondered if students were able to print and if you saw any demand for printing at all? And where students were not redeeming, was there particular motivation not to? Not using something that is “free” does not sound like a student thing to do at all!!


    1. Thanks for your comments Arunn. We are undertaking further analysis with the students and will share this when we have it. Early indications show that some students still like to print and also subsequently read and annotate these printed sections, but not in excessive numbers. We hope to run some focus groups with our students towards the end of the academic year and this is one of the issues we hope to investigate further with them. As for students not redeeming a book, I think this just mirrors student behaviour in other areas, for example not all students attend lectures, visit the library or use the virtual learning environment, so why would they necessarily redeem the book. This fact is just one of the reasons why a 1-1 pricing model for 100% of the cohorts is unrealistic, undesirable and unsuitable!
      Dominic Broadhurst
      University of Manchester Library


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