The visitors and residents (V and R) continuum illustrates the range of possible modes of engagement individuals now have available to them via the web. It can be a valuable tool for exploring how users are engaging with the services you provide. One pragmatic application of the continuum is the V and R mapping process.
This is an activity which can be used to gain a picture of individuals’ overall engagement landscape. It can also be used to gain a picture of the overall ‘digital presence’ of a group or department by bringing together and overlaying multiple maps from staff.
What does the mapping process show?
The mapping process indicates not only what services individuals are using, but more importantly how and why they are using them. This becomes particularly significant when there is engagement with technology in a Resident mode as this will be an experiential as well as a functional form of engagement. The way in which the technology is ‘used’ at the Resident end of the continuum cannot be predicted by describing its face-value functionality.
The V and R process works well in a face to face focus group interview format as the discussion that arises from the mapping often garners the most valuable information about individuals’ attitudes and expectations towards a set of services.
The process itself is relatively simple and has been used successfully with academics, senior managers and students from a variety of disciplines and academic levels.
This video outlines the process in a form that is predominantly designed to be used in a learning and teaching context with fairly experienced learners. You may want to adjust the mapping activity, based on the characteristics of your focus group.
Following feedback from mapping sessions at EDUCAUSE, American Library Association (ALA), and the Higher Education Academy challenges of residency project we have discovered a number of elements of the activity which can be adjusted to make it more effective in certain contexts (Higher Education Academy, 2013).
The vertical axis
The exact labelling of the vertical axis can be changed to make it more relevant for specific groups. For example, early stage students have very little concept of the ‘institution’ and are happier to use terms such as ‘my course’ or ‘university’. We have also found in some cases that a few members of the academic staff cannot distinguish between the personal and the institutional, which indicates the vocational nature of many educational posts.
One possible approach is to discuss with the group the most appropriate terms for the vertical axis as the term they decide on could be a useful indication of how they perceive the institution/faculty/department.
The ‘personal’ and the ‘engagement’ maps
In the full video it’s suggested that participants create a personal map and then create a map which indicates how they engage with the digital services for their learning. In theory, given the inclusion of the vertical axis, both of these maps should be very similar. We have found that early stage (emerging and establishing) students don’t make a ‘personal’ and ‘engagement’ distinction; therefore, a single map with a holistic approach works well.
You can also create a map for a particular department/service eg for the library. Department/service staff should start by creating personal maps (and then discuss what they feel is important/relevant about them). Then the group can create a department/service V and R map eg a map depicting how the library’s services engage users to meet their technology and information needs. This will provide a model of the department/service’s digital identity and may reveal areas where relatively simple interventions can have an impact on engagement.
Discussing your own map
The mapping process might feel slightly intrusive for some. Most people never have to reveal how they engage with technology and other sources in such a comprehensive manner. A good way to break the ice and to explain the process is to draw your own map as part of the session. This tends to start the discussion rolling and provides an environment where participants feel comfortable asking for clarification.