Big data, learning analytics, a crack team from the OU . . . and me

Yesterday I was part of a panel in the Big Data and Learning Analtyics Symposium at ALT-C.   Simon Buckingham Schum, Rebecca Fergusson, Noami Jeffrey, Kevin Mayles and Richard Nurse the “crack team” from the OU gave a really useful overview of the range of work they are all undertaking in the OU. Simon’s blog has details of the session and our introductory slides.

We were pleasantly surprised by the number of delegates who came to the session given we were scheduled at the same time as yesterday’s invitied speakers Professor Mark Stubbs and Sarah Porter. The level of discussion and interest indicated the growing realisation of the potential and the challenges for analytics across the education sector.

As ever it is hard to report effectively on a discussion session however a few issues which seemed to resonate with everyone in the room were:

*the danger of recommendation systems reducing and not extending choice 
*data driven v data deterimistic decision making
*the difference between measuring success and success in learning – they are not the same
*the danger of “seduction by stats” by senior management
*the need for the development of new skills sets and roles within institutions based on data science but with the ability to communicate with all staff to help question the data. 
*the increased need for development of statistical literacy for all staff and students 
*the potential for learning analytics in terms of expanding the flipped classroom model allowing teachers and students more time for sense making and actually thinking about the teaching and learning process.

Many of these issues will be covered in a series of papers we will be releasing next month as part of our Reconnoitre work.  And the discussions will be continued at a SoLAR meeting in November which we are co-hosting with the OU (more details on that in the next few days).



Confessions of a selfish conference tweeter

As many of you will know it’s the ALT- C 2012 conference this week, the UK’s biggest learning technology conference. I’m going later in the week but today am taking advance of the live streaming of the key notes and invited speakers (thank you ALT for once again providing this service); and of course following the twitter back channel.

During this mornings keynote the #altc2012 hashtag started trending on twitter.

Combined with this there seemed to be a growing number of complaints/ warnings about spam messages using the hashtag too.

The growth of twitter as an integral part of conferences is now, depending on your point of view, both a blessing and a curse. As well as some tweets from people who couldn’t be there positively encouraged tweeting, I also noticed a few tweets this morning bemoaning the level of tweets and harking back to the “good ol’ days” when it was a bit like the altc2012 google+ stream, with just a few “cool kids” hanging out.

So what’s my confession? Well there are a couple. Firstly, I never apologise for tweeting at a conference. If I go to a conference now I tweet. If you follow me you probably know this. I am in a very fortunate position that I am able to get to conferences/events that many in our sector can’t, so I think it is part of my role in publicly funded service to share my experiences/ relevant information and links etc. If that bothers you then I suspect you don’t/won’t follow me on twitter, and that is absolutely fine by me.

Secondly, I don’t use tweet deck or anything like that, and very rarely follow a conference hashtag stream. It may mean I miss out on a few tweets (or actually quite a lot), but you know what? (cue stage whisper) It doesn’t really matter. And there is the advantage of avoiding spam but sticking to my own (relatively) spam free stream.

Thirdly, I am slightly obsessed with the network views that people like Tony Hirst and Martin Hawskey create using the twitter data from conferences, and will no doubt be sharing during this week.

So, dear reader, there are my confessions, am I forgiven?

Confronting Big Data and Learning Analytics @ #altc2012

Next Thursday morning I’m participating in the Big Data and Learning Analytics symposium at ALT-C 2012 with colleagues from the OU, Simon BuckinghamShum, Rebecca Ferguson, Naomi Jeffery, Kevin Mayles and Richard Nurse.

The session will start will a brief overview from me of the analytics reconnoitre that CETIS is currently undertaking for JISC, followed by short overviews from different parts of the OU on a number of analytics projects and initiatives being undertaken there. We hope the session will:

“air some of the critical arguments around the limits of decontextualised data and automated analytics, which often appear reductionist in nature, failing to illuminate higher order learning. There are complex ethical issues around data fusion, and it is not clear to what extent learners are empowered, in contrast to being merely the objects of tracking technology. Educators may also find themselves at the receiving end of a new battery of institutional ‘performance indicators’ that do not reflect what they consider to be authentic learning and teaching.”

We’re really keen to have open discussion with delegates and engage with their views and experiences in relation to big data and learning analytics. So, come and join us bright and early (well, 9am) on Thursday. If you can’t make the session, but have some views/experiences then please feel free to leave comments here and I’ll do my best to raise them at the session and in my write up of the it.

More information about the session is available here.