Jo Richler
Measuring Impact: a whole College approach to Curriculum Liaison

The culture of measuring output and outcomes within the FE sector is well established and data is readily available to enhance the choices that senior managers have to make in order to remain competitive and viable. Academic staff are constantly being asked to review provision in the light of retention and achievement data. New provision is measured in terms of market forces and cost recovery. It is therefore no wonder that Colleges are demanding a new scenario complete with supporting data from Libraries and Learning Resources managers. The year on year investment to even the smallest resource centre can run into the hundreds of thousands and for that level of funding there needs to be a new matrix for cost effectiveness and efficiency.

There are two critical elements to this cost analysis; putting the right resources in the right places and encouraging and embedding resources utilisation into curriculum delivery. Both rely on each other and each will fail to deliver if taken as singular components of a whole College approach to resources management and digital literacy. The key to success in order to manage resources and resources services, is Curriculum Liaison delivered through Library and Learning Resources. Make no mistake, this is not the same as traditional FE Library and Learning Resources centres managing the procurement and cataloging of new items. The new Curriculum Liaison officers offer a specialised service portfolio that operates where and when students and staff require it; in classrooms, workshops and internet cafes. Our HE colleagues will recognise this initiative as common place in some university Libraries and Learning Hubs and represents a substantial investment in staffing costs. Within the continuously re-branding and reconfiguring complexity that is the FE sector, such investment is often viewed as extravagant and unrealistic. Yet this very important strata within the Library and Learning Resources services offers tangible and measurable outcomes that can be aligned to retention and achievement.

Sunderland College has recently undertaken a review of Learning Services provision and from that, a new Directorate of Information and Learning Services has been established. Learning Centres continue to offer independent learning opportunities whilst their colleagues have been reorganised into two distinct and essential services; Curriculum Liaison and Learning Technology. By separating the three elements of activity, Sunderland College can quantify and qualify all interventions that are an essential part of student and staff engagement. Footfall data as well as borrower analysis used to be the regular source of supporting evidence in terms of a College's Self Assessment Report or SAR. If the resource was issued, we could run the appropriate resources report and give an indication as to what our students and staff were borrowing. A consequence of this activity review was the list of underutilised resources by certain user groups. Without the follow through of a conversation at tutor level, these same underutilised resources would remain , year in and year out, on the same lists and an inevitable 'ground hog day' scenario was created.

The outcome of curriculum liaison is a fully rounded and informed conversation that in itself will not start with the underused resource but with an overview of what students and staff expect from the College's investment in resources.

Bielefeld University Library - last update: 24/02/2012