Challenges in learning analytics

Access to data creates all sorts of new challenges, whether we want them or not. The art of the possible demands a response. Simon Welsh posed many intriguing questions about how schools and universities approach the data that is available to them. How do new learning spaces represent knowledge? What sort of learning can be measured? How do teachers and students feel about having their data monitored in online spaces? What controls are in place and who makes value-laden decisions in the data selected to capture?

As educators, we make decisions every day about the sort of subjective information we keep about our students. Data is contextual, a “critical value layer” (Long & Siemens, 2011) There is an inherent assumption that we are doing what we can to enhance learning, therefore the decisions made are in that context. Any qualitative data can only complement learning experiences and we should take advantage of its potential. We do assume in schools that we are doing the right thing for the right reasons. Equally, the importance of focusing on collecting the right sort of data, so that we gain valuable insight into what is actually happening in learning (Long & Siemens) and nor just counting the clicks. Quantitative data tempts us to count what we can measure, but not all of that is worth counting. The LMS is a case in point. As Simon suggested, what happens if we are locked into a system that “doesn’t play nicely” with other tools? This is a particularly annoying scenario, as the standard LMS requires a degree of cognitive input that would be demanding for the brightest of IT whizzes. Mine certainly makes me want to take my bat and ball and go home. Please don’t use Google apps for Education, Edmodo etc – the LMS can do all those things and more…but usually in in a clunkier way. Another challenge then, is to remain open and flexible, and not fixed in considering what is possible.

 

Siemens, G., & Long, P. (2011). Penetrating the Fog: Analytics in Learning and Education. EDUCAUSE review, 46(5), 30.

 

Colloquium #1 Annabel Astbury

The first colloquium provided rich insights into the work of Annabel Astbury and the ABC Splash website. They took up the challenge to provide high quality resources to the education community, linking reliable Australian content through Scootle and the Australian Curriculum. The site reflects the changing educational resources landscape and resources are pitched at a level readily accessible to primary and secondary students.  The take-up is most popular during the school week, and as the site’s analytical data illustrates, the videos games and competitions are motivating, and usage is increasing. Annabel admits there are challenges in providing quality resources for a relatively small market, if we are to be compared to PBL in the USA or BBC in the UK.

I found Annabel’s thoughts on the relinquishing of control by educators very timely. Students are engaging with the games and competitions, despite the general lack of prizes or extrinsic rewards. Perhaps this is a reflection of the flattening of hierarchy in schools, the encouraging of students to explore resources without constant direction. That would be my optimistic view. It is certainly a terrific example of the art of the possible – drawing together of excellent curriculum-linked resources that are engaging and easy to access.