AskAway: Learning More about Outcomes

In September 2013, the AskAway exit survey was redesigned to capture data about how AskAway interactions are impacting users and their learning. The new survey asks: “What has changed for you as a result of your AskAway session today?”


After collecting this data for a year, we’ve begun analyzing the results, relating learning outcomes to patron type, satisfaction with the service, and even how patrons discovered the service. Here is a small sampling of our observations from September 2013 through August 2014.

Learning where to look

Forty-six per cent (46%) of patrons report AskAway taught them where to look for information. As you might expect, this number is higher among first- and second-year students (52%), but even among graduate students and faculty, this is among the strongest outcomes of coming to AskAway. This demonstrates a solid need for information literacy instruction at all academic levels — something that AskAway provides.

Serendipitous learning

Even when patrons are potentially looking for a quick answer, AskAway staffers find opportunities for instruction. Many patrons (43%) report receiving help finding a specific fact or document, but most of them (64%) end up also coming away with at least one other learning outcome.

Patrons seem to appreciate the opportunity to learn. Our (already high) satisfaction ratings increase with learning outcomes. Reports of high satisfaction (“very satisfied” or “satisfied”) rise from 94% of patrons at one learning outcome, to 97% at two outcomes, and 100% at three or more. Of the minority who experienced “no change” after their AskAway session (9%), only 38% report high satisfaction.

Different outcomes for different patrons

Patrons at different academic levels achieve somewhat different outcomes from visiting AskAway. First- and second-year students are more likely to learn basic information literacy skills – where to find information, how to find help, etc. – and are more likely to leave with more than one learning outcome (52%). Advanced researchers more often want specific information, and are more likely to leave with fewer outcomes.

Without more information, we can only speculate about why this is – but we do have some ideas. Newer students are less experienced researchers, and presumably learn more from every reference interaction. Advanced researchers, being more experienced, need less basic instruction. Information literacy skills should logically increase as patrons advance academically. But we can also claim some contribution to these increased skills, since 58% of AskAway users are repeat patrons!

Despite their different needs, however, patrons at all levels come away from AskAway with the information they need, and new skills that will assist them in future research. Ninety-one per cent (91%) of patrons leave each session with at least one outcome – and 93% are likely to come back for more.

Learn more:

Notable quotes:

“This is a great service that keeps the role of a librarian relevant and accessible in a day with internet and kindles! My experience was great and I would definitely use this this again and tell other people about it.” – Simon Fraser University Graduate Student

“Thank you so much for your help once again. I really appreciate how you ‘teach’ us students strategies to use rather than just giving us the answer. Proves to be really effective in my learning!”- University of the Fraser Valley Learner

“The search in the library is overwhelming and I didn’t know how or where to start! thank god you have a library assistant chat line…you saved my life! i’m thankful for library assistant on chat line…it’s a calming, relaxing experience…not panic attack!” – College of New Caledonia Learner


This post is adapted and republished with permission from the Electronic Learning Network newsletter.