So far in our Analytics Series we have been setting out the background, history and context of analytics in education at fairly broad and high levels. Developing policy and getting strategic buy-in is critical for any successful project (analytics based or not), so we have tried to highlight issues which will be of use to senior management in terms of the broader context and value of analytics approaches.
Simon Buckingham Schum at the OU (a key figure in the world of learning analytics) has also just produced Learning Analytics Policy Brief for the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education. Specifically focussing on learning analytics Simon’s paper highlights a number of key issues around “the limits of computational modelling, the ethics of analytics, and the educational paradigms that learning analytics promote”, and is another welcome addition to the growing literature on learning analytics; and is a useful complementary resource to to the CETIS series. I would recommend it to anyone interested in this area.
Moving from the policy to practicalities is the focus of our next paper, Institutional Readiness for Analytics. Written by Stephen Powell (with a little bit of input from me), this paper drills down from policy level decisions to the more pragmatic issues faced by staff in institutions who want to start to make some sense of their data through analytics based techniques. It presents two short cases studies (from the University of Bolton and the Open University) outlining the different approaches each institution has taken to try and make more sense of the data they have access to and how that can begin to make an impact on key decisions around teaching, learning and administrative processes.
The OU is probably slightly “ahead of the game” in terms of data collection and provisioning and so their case study focuses more on staff development issues through their Data Wrangler Project, whereas the University of Bolton case study looks more at how they are approaching data provisioning issues. As the paper states, although the two approaches are very different “they should be considered as interrelated with each informing the work of the other in a process of experimentation leading to the development of practices and techniques that meet the needs of the organisation.”
As ever if you have thoughts or any experiences of using analytics approaches in your institution, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.