One Project Done; Another Begun — the SPEC Kit

Last summer, I had a random idea on a Tuesday. Rather than jotting it down to return to at a more reasonable later date, I emailed a couple of other librarians and asked “hey, what do you think about this?” To which both said “Yes! Let’s chat” So that Friday, we had a short phone call. After that, we started recruiting other colleagues. Within another week-10 days we had a proposal and then that was accepted and suddenly we were underway.

And yesterday, our SPEC Kit was published.

Perry, Michael R., Kristin A. Briney, Abigail Goben, Andrew Asher, Kyle M. L. Jones, M. Brooke Robertshaw, and Dorothea Salo. Learning Analytics. SPEC Kit 360. Washington, DC: Association of Research Libraries, September 2018. https://doi.org/10.29242/spec.360

Sponsored by the Association of Research Libraries, SPEC Kits are structured whitepapers which provide a snapshot of current practices on a topic at research libraries. It had been over 10 years since anyone had looked at learning analytics, we were well overdue. The team developed a survey, which ARL distributed and then created an executive summary and pointed out some potentially good privacy policies that might be useful for others to adopt. That’s the short version of the SPEC Kit.

We have the data set and over the course of the next year it is our intent to do further work with it. The publication format didn’t really allow for analysis and synthesis; the majority of what is there is summarization and reporting back. That said, it’s very useful as a starting point and we can certainly build upon and outwards. I hope it will prompt questions and ideas for librarians who are tasked with learning analytics.

What the process really did was become meetings every other week where the team worked very hard. Where we relied on Michael Perry to translate our collective thoughts back to ARL during the editing process and on Kristin Briney to point out best practices for our visualizations. Where new colleagues have quickly become good friends. Where we openly have disagreed and asserted and resolved and dissolved into laughter.

And where, in late July/early August of 2017, when I saw the IMLS call for proposals come out, I asked “what if we asked someone for money?” and Kyle ML Jones stepped up and offered to lead the charge.

Which is how I have had the excellent fortune to become a Co-Investigator and the Project Manager for the IMLS funded Data Doubles grant. More on that in another post but do check out our website. 

I have rarely suffered a paucity of projects, but this team has been already such a joy to work with and given me so many new directions. I look forward to our Monday calls, to wrangling through notifications, and to trying to figure out how we all best draw on each others strengths. We have three years ahead to ask interesting questions and discover (we hope) useful answers.

The SPEC Kit is our first major publication together and I greatly anticipate all that is coming ahead.

Summer Tuesdays Ideas are wonderful.

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