Learning Analytics: not just measuring but engaging students

Last week, I ran a workshop for the Lace project on “Learning Analytics: seeking answers at a time of big questions?” at the ALT-C14. The workshop was designed to bring together educators, researchers and developers to explore the promises and the pitfalls of using learning analytics in education. A brief introduction to the workshop is available here.

At the workshop, participants were invited to work in groups to develop scenarios around learning analytics in institutions and the issues and concerns related to using data in education, teaching and learning. About 30 participants from HE institutions, commercial companies and other educational organisations shared their thoughts, experiences and current projects and work on learning analytics.

Although four groups worked independently, not surprisingly, a common theme emerged at the plenary session: using learning analytics as a means to engage students. Several scenarios were developed around building dashboards to track student engagement; monitoring student performance and supporting individual and group  online learning; and engaging international students, distance learners and students in MOOCs, etc.

Some questions around using analytics in institutions were discussed in the groups, such as:

  • What are the motivations for using learning analytics?
  • What systems, tools and data are available?
  • How reliable are the data?
  • How up to date are the data?
  • How can data from multiple sources (VLE, Facebook, twitter) be monitored and analysed?
  • How may we identify similar behaviours among high or low performance students?

General concerns were around privacy and data protection as well as accuracy of data collected about students and their online activities. Other concerns and suggestions included:

  • Don’t get bogged down with the numbers
  • Need better performance metrics and actual impact indicators;
  • Need to have the right data and the right human interpretation;
  • Danger of too much details that may discourage meaningful learning
  • Course should be designed with learning analytics in mind
  • Consider data formats and interoperability for data sharing

Due to the time constraints of the workshop, with participants from different types of organisations with various level of knowledge and skill on learning analytics, it was difficult to have a deep discussion around such broad and challenging topic. However, most participants thought that the workshop provided an opportunity for them to find out what other people and institutions are thinking and doing, and to share their ideas and experiences, in this case, how to engage students through learning analytics. If you would like to find out more about the Lace project and learning analytics, you can join the Lace community or participating in our future workshops.

UntitledThe LACE project workshop at the ALT-C14, 1st September 2014, Warwick, UK

CETIS visits China for conferences and seminars

xuzhou-conference2Two weeks ago, I joined my colleagues, Oleg Liber, Director of JISC CETIS and Sarah Holyfield, Communications Director of JISC CETIS to present at the 8th International Educational Technology Forum in Xuzhou, JiangSu province, China. The conference is organised by the National Colleges and Universities of Educational Technology Direction Committeoleg2e and it provides a platform for experts and scholars in China and abroad to discuss the latest issues on the use of technology in education, and to learn from practice, exchange ideas and share mutual interests. About 500 experts, researchers, teachers and students frome China, UK, US and Japan attended the conference. Professor Liber was invited to give a keynote lecture on “Cybernetics and Education: Insights from the Viable System Model” with a focus on Cybernetic Modelling as an approach to designing educational technology intervention. I gave a presentation on Open Educational Resources initiatives and the UK JISC-funded OER Programme at the conference.

I also attended the Chinese Government Funded Educational Technology Programmes & Innovative Use of Technology in Education conference which higher-education-press1was organised by the Higher Education Press in Beijing on 24th August. The speakers from different Chinese universities reported findings from their projects and research on use of technology to enhance teaching and learning. I was invited to give a presentation on the UK OER Programme and Innovation in HE and this provided an opportunity to discuss some mutually interesting issues with Chinese colleagues, such as copyright, interoperability and standards, etc. Not surprisingly, some other presentations at the conference also looked into models for sharing educational resources and the various barriers that prevent sharing and using teaching and learning resources, etc.

After the conference, we visited East China Normal University, Shaanxi Normal University and Beijing Normal University, all of these asarah1re universities which specialise in teacher training, and we ran seminars with staff and students from the Institute of Educational Technology in each of them. In these seminars, Sarah gave an overview of JISC and CETIS’s missions and aims, along with their programmes and activities to the audience of Chinese colleagues and students. Oleg talked about the major projects and development work that CETIS and the Institute for Educational Cybernetics (IEC) are working on, and the Inter-disciplinary, Inquiry–based learning programme (IDIBL)based at the IEC at Bolton; I tbeijing-discussion-21hen followed up with an input about the UK JISC-funded OER programme and the main challenges this is addressing. These seminars also initiated very interesting discussions with Chinese colleagues and students on various topics, and there is clearly a great deal of interest among colleagues in China in the whole question of Open Educational Resources and what these imply.

It was very impressive to learn that universities in China have developed a comprehensive degree system for teaching, learning and research on education technology in order to service the needs of using technology to extend access to education and improve the quality of teaching and learning in China. In the field, there are 224 universities with bachelor degree programmes, 83 universities offer master level programmes and 8 universities are qualified for PhD programme, whilst 6 universities provide research fellowships. It is clear that the rapid development of education technology as a subject in Chinese universities also poses big challenges on curriculum design and student recruitment. For example, how to keep up with changing technology; how to meet students’ expectations and the needs of the job market in the field.

During the visit, we discussed a wide range of issues with the Chinese colleagues, learnt from different perspectives, shared mutual research interests, and explored opportunities for developing collaborative research projects and partnerships. Sarah and I will write more about our visit to China and what we have learned.

powerpoint1Finally and most interestingly, we found a street storyteller using an old fashion technology –“Magic Lantern” to present Chinese history stories which attracted many people (different age, gender and culture) who came to visit the modern Shanghai.