CAUSE/EFFECT

This article was published in CAUSE/EFFECT journal, Volume 22 Number 3 1999. Copyright EDUCAUSE. See http://www.educause.edu/copyright for additional copyright information.

Survey Finds EDUCAUSE Publications Well Received

Late last year EDUCAUSE surveyed its member representatives and subscribers seeking input with respect to the association�s publishing and communications program. Highlights of the results of that survey are reported here. The full report is available through the EDUCAUSE Information Resources Library at http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/PUB2101.pdf.

In an ongoing effort to monitor and improve the quality of our publications and the ways in which we communicate with our members, in November of 1998 EDUCAUSE sent a four-page questionnaire to our members, seeking input on various aspects of our publishing and communications program. Recipients were grouped into those who had received CAUSE/EFFECT journal as former CAUSE representatives and those who had received Educom Review as former Educom representatives or magazine subscribers. What follows is a summary of key survey findings, reported mostly as a percent of the total respondents, but with some comparisons made between respondents from the subset CAUSE/EFFECT and Educom Review groups.

Who are our readers?

Respondents provided information about their job title, work location, years in information technology (IT), educational level, age, gender, and the type of institution where they are currently employed. More than 62 percent of all respondents are information technology professionals--25.7 percent chief information officers, 29.4 percent senior IT managers, and 7 percent �other� IT titles. Nearly 15 percent of respondents are university executives, 10.2 percent are academic chairs/administrators or faculty, and 7.2 percent are librarians.

When asked where they work within their institutions, 57.8 percent responded that they work in a central IT organization, 17 percent in a central administrative office, and 15.5 percent in either a central academic office or academic department. More than 44 percent of respondents reported working in information technology from 11 to 20 years, with 38.2 percent reporting more than 20 years. Only 4.3 percent reported working in IT for 5 years or fewer. The educational level for the respondents in this study is quite high. Only 1.1 percent reported having less than a college degree, with more than 85 percent having a master�s degree or better.

Given that the majority of respondents in the study have spent a considerable amount of time working in IT, it is not surprising that fewer than 1 percent are under the age of 30, with 36.5 percent between 41 and 50 years of age and 50.5 percent 51 or older. The ratio of male to female for the respondents in this study was almost 3 to 1.

What are your reading habits?

Nearly 92 percent of respondents in the CAUSE/EFFECT group reported reading the journal, and 82.6 percent of respondents in the Educom Review group reported reading the magazine. For both groups, lack of time was the single largest factor for not reading the publications. The survey also asked about overall readership patterns. Survey recipients were provided a list of popular higher education and information technology publications and asked which ones they read on a regular basis. Table 1 shows the results. The respondents in this study generally reported doing a fair amount of reading, with 63.7 percent reading 11 or more printed periodical articles a month.

Table 1: Publications the respondents read on a regular basis (percent of respondents who selected that publication)

PUBLICATION C/E Respondents ER Respondents
CAUSE/EFFECT 92.3 45.0
Change 16.6 30.0
Chronicle of Higher Ed 71.6 78.2

CIO

35.5 18.6
Computerworld 29.7 12.7
Educom Review 42.5 77.3
InfoWorld 28.1 20.0
Information Week 43.1 20.9
Internet Week 21.1 11.4
Network Computing 26.8 12.3
PC group 44.1 26.8
Syllabus 31.9 38.6
T.H.E. Journal 26.5 26.8
Wired 15.3 21.8
Other 26.2 29.5

How do our periodicals rate?

One of the questions that dealt specifically with how CAUSE/EFFECT and Educom Review readers felt about their respective publications asked them to rate the periodicals in the 10 areas listed in Table 2. It�s important to note that all of these areas for both groups rated above the response scale midpoint of 3, which suggests that all of these areas carry at least a moderate level of importance to the readers of these publications.

Although most of the items on the questionnaire dealt with feedback on more general areas of the publications, one question asked them to respond to specific sections or types of articles for each of the two publications. CAUSE/EFFECT readers found the articles on �current issues� to be the most useful (72.5 percent found them very useful, 27.1 percent somewhat useful). �Articles by colleagues� were also well received, with 62.1 percent rating them as very useful and 37.1 percent as somewhat useful. The highest rating for any of the Educom Review sections was for the �feature articles,� which 58 percent found very useful and 40.2 percent found somewhat useful. With respect to article length, overall both groups felt the articles for these periodicals are about the right length (81.1 percent of CAUSE/EFFECT readers and 86.7 percent of Educom Review readers).

Table 2: Readers ratings for their respective publications (range is 1=poor to 5=excellent)

AREA RATED Group Mean SD
Coverage of important issues C/E Readers
ER Readers
3.93
3.75
0.72
0.80
Usefulness in keeping abreast of the field C/E Readers
ER Readers
3.74
3.48
0.82
0.95
Immediate usefulness on your job C/E Readers
ER Readers
3.45
3.05
0.84
0.89
Value to your professional development C/E Readers
ER Readers
3.73
3.43
0.88
0.94
Value to your career growth C/E Readers
ER Readers
3.37
3.05
0.89
0.97
Quality of articles/writing C/E Readers
ER Readers
3.99
3.84
0.73
0.80
Conciseness C/E Readers
ER Readers
3.53
3.38
0.81
0.88
Appropriateness of focus C/E Readers
ER Readers
3.90
3.73
0.73
0.80
Ease of readability C/E Readers
ER Readers
3.87
3.85
0.74
0.78
Overall appearance (design/layout) C/E Readers
ER Readers
3.91
3.72
0.79
0.85

What media do you prefer for delivery of publications and communications?

With a shift in recent years from print-based publications to other media, it was important to ask respondents how they would like to receive EDUCAUSE publications. Survey results showed a clear preference for print as the medium for CAUSE/EFFECT (62.3 percent) and for Educom Review (to a lesser extent, with 48.6 percent preferring print and 34.4 percent preferring publication on the Web).

Almost 69 percent of respondents felt that EDUCAUSE books should continue to be produced in print, but only 36.8 preferred this medium for monographs, with 45.4 percent expressing an interest in Web publication for this category. Nearly 63 percent of respondents preferred Web publication for the conference proceedings (the current medium of publication). Respondents had little desire to receive any EDUCAUSE materials on CD-ROM, except perhaps for conference proceedings, for which just over 10 percent of respondents indicated CD-ROM.

EDUCAUSE sends a tremendous amount of information to our members. This includes notices of conferences and events, updates on association projects, general news and information about information technology, notifications of special publications, and policy and network information from our Washington office. In recent years much of the transfer of this information has gone from print to Web and e-mail. The survey included a question about how members would like to receive this kind of information. The highest preference of choice among respondents was subscription e-mail, with 38 percent rating that as their top choice. Web with an e-mail prompt and broadcast e-mail were close seconds for the top choice (30.4 percent and 28.5 percent, respectfully). Surface mail (7.8 percent) and Web without an e-mail prompt (4.8 percent) were not popular as a means of receiving general association information.

Have you visited the EDUCAUSE Web site lately?

Respondents were asked if they had visited the EDUCAUSE Web site in the last three months. Surprisingly, only 60 percent reported that they had. There was an inverse correlation between Web site use and respondents age, with younger respondents reporting a greater use. There appears to be a gender difference as well, with females using the Web more often than males. Nearly two-thirds of the women respondents reported visiting the EDUCAUSE Web site in the past three months, with only 57.9 percent of the males reporting doing so.

Those who reported visiting the EDUCAUSE Web site in the last three months were asked their perceptions of it in six categories (see Table 3). All six areas received high marks, with the lowest average being 3.82 (on a scale of 1=poor to 5=excellent) for organization of information. Respondents felt the Web sites information value and its practical value were its strongest attributes.

The responses to the questionnaire have been useful to us as we continue to evaluate the publishing and communications program of EDUCAUSE. In recent months we have begun to make changes in CAUSE/EFFECT and Educom Review based on the information we received from this survey, with other changes planned, and we have also been working to improve our communications program overall. As a membership organization, its imperative that we obtain the kind of feedback we received from this survey. We are most grateful to those who participated, and we encourage members to provide comments and suggestions about our publishing and communications activities at any time.

Table 3: Ratings of the EDUCAUSE Web site by those who visited it in the last three months (range is 1=poor to 5=excellent)

RATING Ease of use % Design % Org of info % Info Value % Practical % Timliness %
1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.3
2 2.7 2.7 2.4 3.4 3.8 5.2
3 23.5 24.8 30.4 17.1 19.5 24.0
4 54.6 54.8 49.8 51.4 51.0 47.6
5 19.2

17.7

17.4 28.1 25.4 22.9
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Overall average 3.90 3.87 3.82 4.04 3.97 3.88

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