What are Learning Analytics?

Learning analytics is an educational application of “big data,” a science that was originally used by businesses to analyze commercial activities, identify spending trends, and predict consumer behavior. The rise of the Internet drove research into big data and metrics as well as the proliferation of web tracking tools, enabling companies to build vast reserves of information they could study and apply to their marketing campaigns. Education is embarking on a similar pursuit into data science with the aim of improving student retention and providing a high quality, personalized experience for learners. Learning analytics research uses data analysis to inform decisions made on every tier of the educational system. Whereas analysts in business use consumer data to target potential customers and personalize advertising, learning analytics leverages student data to build better pedagogies, target at-risk student populations, and assess whether programs designed to improve retention have been effective and should be sustained — outcomes for legislators and administrators that have profound impact. For educators and researchers, learning analytics has been crucial to gaining insights about student interaction with online texts and courseware. Students are beginning to experience the benefits of learning analytics as they engage with mobile and online platforms that track data to create responsive, personalized learning experiences.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • MS and HS teachers can use learning analytics to identify students who are not accessing course material, or who are accessing it but still performing poorly. However, I feel that so much about learning analytics requires teachers being trained in the "how tos" of managing and interpreting loads and loads of data. - adrienne.michetti adrienne.michetti Nov 10, 2015
  • At different levels it will have relevance, at a micro level analytics might help our HS teachers track if students have watched a video, how long they might have spent watching it. This kind of granular data can influence pedagogy and how they can adapt and improve or increase engagement. Similar information about posts to a class page and willingness to contribute, highlight patterns of student and who might need support - andrew.mccarthy andrew.mccarthy Nov 11, 2015

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • The average teacher is not equipped -- with time, training, or capacity -- to interpret big data in a way that is meaningful to him/her. Doing so requires and abundance of resources and learning. This kind of data interpretation just hasn't been available to teachers before, so it's new. And most schools haven't yet had the foresight to invest in a person or team whose responsibility it is to help teachers understand the potential impact learning analytics could have on their pedagogies. - adrienne.michetti adrienne.michetti Nov 10, 2015
  • the idea of 'big data' is perhaps an overkill in the context of education. I think data from individual applications is the easiest to understand, and now more readily available. At a wider scale data at our school is beginning to help us identify where we 'add value' to test scores, and trends overtime.

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

  • The most obvious to me is the ability of teachers to use such data to immediately, or nearly immediately, adapt or change their teaching. In a sense, to use hinge questions, I guess, to change the learning environment. But we are still a long way off from this. But the potential is huge -- if teachers had enough data at any given minute to know what learners were struggling, and which were not, in an instant, can you imagine how learning would change if they could also instantly change their instruction to meet those students' needs, based on such data? It's tremendous. - adrienne.michetti adrienne.michetti Nov 10, 2015
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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • https://irc.asbfindings.org/ - nathan.pither nathan.pither Nov 8, 2015
  • UWCSEA has been working with Teamie (http://www.theteamie.com) to develop a platform that collects learning analytics. The current platform does, and so far some teachers are looking at this data to inform their teaching, but not many. - adrienne.michetti adrienne.michetti Nov 10, 2015
  • UWCSEA HS Maths teachers have been using TI-Inspire data to adjust and inform teaching pedagogy. - adrienne.michetti adrienne.michetti Nov 10, 2015
  • Similar points to Adrienne, our school learning platform is trying to develop more of these tools. All of the formative assessment tools such as Socrative/Zaption etc now provide teachers with rich data about performance. Zaption is clever and can track time spent on videos etc. https://ajmccarthynz.wordpress.com/2015/09/14/flipping-formative-assessment-with-zaption/ - andrew.mccarthy andrew.mccarthy Nov 11, 2015
  • Our school (UWCSEA) is also investing heavily in Data Analytics. We have employed a Data Analytics Specialist to develop a school database of all assessment/performance data, which is now available to Heads of Departments and Principals via a Dashboard. This links to the points made above about making a set of numbers understandable to teachers. It is easy share a big spreadsheet of statistics, but the interpretation and thinking how this links to practice are both hard for many staff to master.- andrew.mccarthy andrew.mccarthy Nov 11, 2015

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