Understanding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on e-resource usage trends

During 2020 many publishers and suppliers opened up or removed restrictions on e-resource content to support coronavirus research and the sudden shift to online learning. In addition, many more people were working and learning from home and off campus. In the early days there was also a lot of disruption to teaching and learning. These factors will have had an impact on usage and access denials reported in your COUNTER reports.

What resources were available and how?

Jisc collected information about publishers and resources and compiled into a list. This list is no longer updated but has been retained for reference for reviewing collections and usage data.

How does the type of access affect usage?

Case 1: supplier made content freely available to all

Reported counts for the relevant titles are likely to be much lower than normal as there is no need to log in and more people are working from home (outside the institutional IP range). This does not mean actual usage has gone down, just that usage cannot be attributed to an institution and so not captured in institutional reports. In fact, some publishers, such as Annual Reviews, have reported increases in overall usage and are planning to carry out analysis and publish results. Annual Reviews have shared their initial findings in a blog post: Pandemic Usage Validates S2O Effort.

COUNTER have produced a Foundation Class (video guide) on Release 5 usage in the time of the pandemic that explains why, when looking at COUNTER reports for this year, you may see an apparent downturn in usage statistics.

COUNTER have published statements on their website:

Case 2: supplier expanded access for existing customers only

In some cases, suppliers made specific teaching collections available to institutions for a period. As users need to log in, this usage will be captured in your COUNTER reports.

Case 3: supplier remove concurrent user limits on titles

Where publishers allowed, book suppliers temporarily removed concurrent user limits and credit models. For these titles, you would expect access denials to be lower than normal and usage to be higher.

Tips to evaluating usage during this period

When comparing usage with previous years, consider monthly usage trend patterns or percentage change, rather than just totals. The JUSP R5 Trends data visualisation will allow you to quickly spot changes in usage patterns.

JUSP has two R5 visualisations that allow you to view usage trends in the bigger picture. The visualisation Trends for Jisc band or peer group shows you total monthly usage trends for a group of institutions. This allows you to compare high level trends for 2019 and 2020 and see where there have been changes in usage patterns on a wider scale. There is also a Compare your institution visualisation that shows your total usage along with anonymised usage of other institutions in your Jisc band or peer group. Overall usage per institution for a supplier will vary based on a number of factors (such as content access and subject coverage), but these visualisations do give an indication of general trends in usage across similar groups of institutions.

To understand overall demand for individual titles, look at usage and access denials together. The TR: Filter Title Master Report allows you to choose which metric to view side-by-side.

When interpreting the data there are also local factors to consider, such as:

  • Did you need to activate access to content? If so, when was this and how long did it last?
  • Was the content discoverable? Did you promote the content? How? When?
  • Was the content relevant to your research and teaching?
  • Were there any access or other technical issues? How confident were your students, learners and staff in accessing content remotely?