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.