5th week Summary of Learning and Knowledge Analytics

11 02 2011

“Learning analytics promises to harness the power of advances in data mining, interpretation, and modeling to improve understandings of teaching and learning, and to tailor education to individual students more effectively. Still in its early stages, learning analytics responds to calls for accountability on campuses across the country, and leverages the vast amount of data produced by students in day-to-day academic activities. While learning analytics has already been used in admissions and fund-raising efforts on several campuses, “academic analytics” is just beginning to take shape.

The goal of learning analytics is to enable teachers and schools to tailor educational opportunities to each student’s level of need and ability.

Learning analytics need not simply focus on student performance. It might be used as well to assess curricula, programs, and institutions. It could contribute to existing assessment efforts on a campus, helping provide a deeper analysis, or it might be used to transform pedagogy in a more radical manner. It might also be used by students themselves, creating opportunities for holistic synthesis across both formal and informal learning activities.

It also carries with it concerns about student privacy and profiling, as well as the sense that students are being reduced to information and numbers. Indeed, learning analytics to date generally falls within the purview of IT departments.

There are currently several kinds of tools for learning analytics including those that might be adapted for educational purposes, and those developed specifically to connect with existing educational tools. Commercial applications include Mixpanel analytics, which offers real-time data visualization documenting how users are engaging with material on a website. Similarly, Userfly, designed for usability testing, provides the ability to record the behavior of visitors to websites, and then play it back for analysis. Moving in a different direction, Gephi is a free, open source interactive visualization and exploration platform described as “Photoshop but for data.” It is connected to exploratory data analysis. Among the tools developed specifically for learning analytics is Socrato, an online learning analytics service that generates diagnostic and performance reports. SNAPP (Social Networks Adapting Pedagogical Practice), developed by the University of Wollongong in Australia, is a tool designed to expand on the basic information gathered within learning management systems; this information tends to center on how often and for how long students interact with posted material. SNAPP instead visualizes how students interact with discussion forum posts, giving significance to the socio-constructivist activities of students.

Perhaps one of most compelling aspects of learning analytics centers on collaborations between IT staff and faculty, or those working in computer science and HCI, and those working in non-computational disciplines.”

Horizon Report 2011

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