The growing field of learning analytics (LA) is gaining significant attention in Higher Education, reinforced by the increasing amounts of student data generated through various software. It has become a hot topic not only for practitioners but also researchers. City’s own Learning Analytics Project (LeAP) aims to maximise the potential of all our students, improving their educational experience, whilst supporting the institution’s education performance indicators relating to progression and attainment.
In this short blog post, I will share some of the things I discovered and discussed during a Critical Learning Analytics event organized by the Society for Research in Higher Education.
Discussions and presentations during the event were based on work in the cultural studies of data, critical algorithm studies and educational research. Dr Sue Timmis started her presentation with a simple definition of LA. There is no consensus on definition itself in the research and the term of LA analytics is not well understood in the sector. Whilst there are large volume of data available, and analytics allow us to gain insights into learner’s behavioural patterns, there has been a trend towards more individualistic and performative view of learning analytics across Universities, rather than a student-centred and collaborative implementation methodologies. This is of growing concern in the UK. Systems often are created to detect “at risk students” that are created based on scalability not necessity. Most of the students and lecturers are still not aware how the data are used in LA projects what creates a lot of ethical implications in the sector. Dr Sue concluded her presentation saying that “learning analytics is gaining credibility in policy circles in very deterministic way without sufficient scrutiny of its claims to address key pedagogical challenges, what measures are being proposed or practiced, the ethical implications and the validity and value of such measures, in particular to students”.
Getting student perspective and input was key to a small scale experimental project run in the University of Edinburgh called LARC and presented by Dr Jeremy Knox. Learning Analytics Report Card was developed to help answer two questions:
- How can University teaching teams develop critical and participatory approaches to educational data analysis?
- How can educators develop ways of involving students as research partners and active participants in their own data collection and analysis, as well as foster critical understanding of the use of computational analysis in education?
The ‘Learning Analytics Report Card’ (LARC) captured data from an individual student’s course-related activity, and presented a summary of their academic progress in textual and visual form. The LARC offered students an opportunity to explore their data, they could choose what to include and exclude in the report and how it may be presented. The data sets included in the project consisted of attendance and course participation, social interaction based on LMS data. The report generated allowed students to reflect on their results. The project itself was a great example of more collaborative and participatory approach that might foster critical awareness of data use in educational settings.
Although, I left the event with a lot of questions around ethical approach to learning analytics in terms of collecting, and sharing data, I benefited from the accelerated learning about the “dark side” of data from educational technology perspective. There is much that can inform our own LA work.
To find out more about City’s Learning Analytics Project (LeAP), check out the project website: http://bit.ly/CityLeAP