Collaborative Assessment for Student Success: Analyzing Nontraditional Students’ Library Perceptions and Usage [Slides]

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Sam Harlow, Online Learning Librarian (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:

Abstract: Slides from a presentation given December 6, 2018 at the Library Assessment Conference in Houson, TX.

Assessing the library’s impact on student success is vital for all library departments, but many assessments exclude nontraditional students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES,, a nontraditional student is defined by many characteristics, such as: delayed enrollment into higher education programs, part-time attendance, working full-time, financial independence from parents, caretaking responsibilities, single parenthood, and having received a GED. Because nontraditional students can feel isolated from campus resources, reaching out to this population of students is crucial. Though there is literature on creating library outreach and instruction to nontraditional students there is a gap in the literature about assessing nontraditional students research needs. Creating assessments that include and focus on nontraditional students is key to improve library resources and services.

Two librarians from a midsize public university created assessments focused on two student groups with many nontraditional students: online students and transfer students. Assessing transfer students has been a long-standing strategic mission for this library, and growing assessment to online students is a more recent step. This paper will cover an introduction to nontraditional students, our assessment methodology and approach to these student groups, our findings, and the value of assessing nontraditional students at other institutions.

The purposes of these assessments were to target online and transfer students and assess their use and perceptions of library resources and services. This assessment plan to nontraditional students included many approaches. Transfer students were assessed through surveys, pretest and posttest, and focus groups. Assessing transfer students was also expanded under the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) Assessment in Action (AiA) program. Online students were targeted through surveys and usability studies on library websites, as well as evaluating nontraditional student chat transcripts and creating online advisory groups. With all assessments, these librarians collaborated across library departments and across the institution. When assessing online students, public services, technical services, and library information technology teamed up for usability testing and surveys. To create the advisory board for online students, this librarian worked with nonlibrary departments across campus. With transfer students, the librarian teamed up with nonlibrary departments and regional community colleges.

The findings of our assessments indicate that better marketing of services is needed to nontraditional students, as well as an outreach plan to reach students at the beginning of their academic careers. Continuing collaboration is key in order to improve our resources, including working with nonlibrary departments to better communicate with nontraditional students to create workshops and orientations geared towards nontraditional students. Both librarians also see in the findings the need to work with regional community colleges to reach out to transfer students and learn from their online learning initiatives. Future directions of our findings indicate that possibly creating a position that would focus on student success, including nontraditional students, would help strengthen these initiatives on campus and regionally.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2018
higher education, academic libraries, nontraditional students, student success

Email this document to