Learning Analytics, the Participatory Web and me

There is often a disconnect between the aspirational rhetoric of academic theory and the realities of the classroom. It is sometimes difficult to imagine a school where the digital concepts of this course are aligned and balanced. While it is easy to use the jargon in assignments and critical reflections of the blog posts, it’s not so easy to sound like an innovator, an achiever when asked to present real-life case studies.

All this seemingly changes now with INF537. We are suddenly exposed to articles and experts who are critically evaluating the work of academics, claiming that educational technology is not progressing quickly (Selywn, 2010), nor in all the best directions (Ross, 2012). We are now offered opportunities to question and critically examine the theories and the contentions, and acknowledge the gaps between research driven data providing ‘should’ and ‘must’ conclusions, and the constraints placed upon schools to act upon them (Selwyn, 2014).

It’s a frustration experience reading, learning and reflecting on the possibilities and then taking the ideas into schools, only to be hit with ‘slow down’, ‘wait a minute’ and ‘we need a committee to decide that’.

Ultimately, unfortunately, such delays can wear a person down (not me, of course, I am just saying).

One area that never seems to improve in schools is immersion into the participatory web. No matter how much academics argue for the many benefits for students who collaborate, comment and reflect in open, online communities, there is too much concern about privacy and criminality (Campbell, De Bois & Oblinger 2007, in Long & Siemens, 2011) given students’ ages for it to ever gain a strong foot-hold. However, freedom to interact in virtual worlds blossoms once students reach tertiary institutions, and evidence from learning analytics indicates that students who interact regularly with their online management course work, and in other networks (social or otherwise) achieve better (Long & Siemans, 2011). But while there are questions around the validity of the data and the conclusions reached by learning analytic models (Welsh, 2016), it continues to be mined, particularly in higher education.

Interestingly I have found learning analytics being used at a private girls’ school, where I have just started a six-week contract. Unsurprisingly, it is the Academic Mentoring Program that is its strongest advocate. They encourage teachers to access the dashboard data available through the school’s LMS to analyse, compare and identify potential at-risk students. They also want the teachers to use it to inform and develop their own practice.

I am excited by the way the college is determining professional practice in teachers. I have only been there for two weeks, and already I can see there is strong expectation on staff to take responsibility for lessons that leverage digital media, that they understand their accountability to student success, and that they make use of all the programs and technology available to them. It’s the strongest example I have seen of teachers being challenged to consider the future of pedagogy and the implications for their changing practice.

I hope this will translate to exciting and authentic project opportunities for assignment three.


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

Ross, J. (2012). The spectacle and the placeholder: Digital futures for reflective practices in higher                             education. In Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Networked Learning (pp. 227–                   244). Retrieved from

Selwyn, N. (2010). Looking beyond learning: Notes towards the critical study of educational technology.                  Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(1), 65-73. doi:10.1111/j.1365- 2729.2009.00338.x

Selwyn, N. (2014). Education and ‘the Digital’. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 35(1), 155-164.                 doi:10.1080/01425692.2013.856668

Welsh, S. (Presenter). (2016, 24 July 2016). Learning Analytics: A Traveller’s Guide. [online colloquium]

5 thoughts on “Learning Analytics, the Participatory Web and me

  1. Your new school environment sounds exciting and hopefully, teachers willingly rise to those challenges put forward.

    I have long advocated for students and teachers to engage in the participatory web. I agree with the work of Jenkins et al who have been saying since 2006 that a shift in focus is required and that the digital divide is no longer about who does and does not have access to technology but an issue of access to opportunities to participate. It is through participation, they argue, that youth will cultural competencies and social skills necessary for a successful life in the digital age. One of the big challenges I always face is getting teachers to realise the need for themselves to be active participants in order to understand these literacies and model them for students. And so it is most encouraging to hear that you are at a school where this may be the case.


  2. Here’s to some awesome new adventures in your new job Trisha.

    I accidentally clicked on your blog URL whilst trying to navigate to the group of bloggers I have been assigned to by Julie…but am so glad I found your post 🙂 Like yourself, I just started in a new organisation… my biggest challenge is that it is a Government agency where privacy and all you do reflect on the image of the agency, so therefore red tape and bureaucracy run rampant and I am finding a lot of “slow down” blockers… the irony is I was hired to deliver on their “deliver digital” initiative where access to a community of practice leveraged by the networked and participatory nature of the digital information ecology; and I can’t even open wordpress on our local server! I am currently writing a report as part of my six month probation to assess what the agency needs to upskill a diverse and widely dispersed workforce.. hoping to link back to assignment 3 of INF537, and I hope I can influence change in that way.

      • Hey Kath

        I have been to your blog a couple of times, and read all your reflections. You are a terrific example of a digital participant.

        I tend to run hot and cold.

        Will whip over and return the favour.


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