Learning Analytics Interoperability – some thoughts on a “way ahead” to get results sometime soon

The “results” of the title are the situation where increased interoperability contributes to practical learning analytics (exploratory, experimental, or operational). The way ahead to get results sometime soon requires care; focussing on the need and the hunger without restraining ambition will surely mean a failure to be timely, successful, or both. On the other hand, although it would be best (in an ideal world) to spend a good deal of time characterising the scope of data and charting the range of methods and targets, it is feared that this would totally block progress. Hence a middle way seems necessary, in which a little time is spent on discussing the most promising and the best-understood targets. i.e. to look for the low hanging fruit. This represents a middle way between the tendencies of the sales-man and the academic.

I have written a short-ish (working) document to help me to explore my own thoughts on the resolution of tension between these several factors, which I see as:

  1. The difficulty in getting standardised data out of information systems in a consistent way is a barrier to conducting learning analytics. There is a need now.
  2. There is a hunger to taste the perceived benefits of using learning analytics.
  3. The scope of data relevant to learning analytics is enormous. To reach the minimal common ground necessary to declare “a standard” or interoperability across all of these is intractable given available human resource because experience shows either analysing the breadth of actual practice or defining anything by consensus is slow.
  4. The range of methods and targets of learning analytics is diverse and emerging as experience grows. This places limits on what it is rational to attempt to standardise. In other words, we don’t really know what LA is yet and this brings the risk that any spec work may fail to define the right things.

I hope that making this work-in-progress available will stimulate thoughts in the wider community. Please feel free to comment.

The document (current version 0.2) is available:

 

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