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Innovating Pedagogy 2013: Learning analytics

blendedlearning's picture

The Innovating Pedagogy report is an annual overview of edutech from the Institute of Educational Technology at the Open University. The 2013 report, the second in the series, selects 10 emerging innovations from the long list of existing technologies which the institute believes have the potential to make a significant impact on education. These are not technologies which are in development or even new, but rather technologies and ideas which are already being effected but have room to expand. The report ranks each innovation in terms of potential impact and timescale for implementation, describes its current application, and then explains the pedagogy behind the innovation and how it could be re-envisioned for maximum impact. One of the innovations they review is the use of learning analytics.

Potential impact: medium/high
Timescale: medium (2-5 years)

Learning analytics is a broad category which, essentially, encompasses the collection, analysis, and reporting of large-scale data focused on learners, pedagogical strategies, and learning environments. Analytics, once implemented broadly, can be used to better understand how students interact with learning materials and to make recommendations to improve materials and pedagogy. The growing use of virtual learning environments, learning/content management systems, and MOOCs provide an easy method of collecting data - these systems often have the built-in capability to collect data about learners' activities. OpenClass, for example, uses its large, varied user population to power learning analytics which they use to optimize content and modify courses. However, the report suggests that the challenge at hand is develop analytics based on what questions are useful to answer rather than what data is readily available.

Of course, implementing large scale analytics comes with its own set of problems and negotiations. To achieve their full potential, the infrastructure for learning analytics needs to be retroactively added to existing programs, and instructors will need to learn new software and strategies to integrate the information they receive. Once institutions begin to amass large stores of data, they will need to confront both the ethical and the logistical questions that database creates.

However, if learning analytics expands in the ways which the report predicts, it will be able to help both educators and students. Some of the uses which Open University projects include:

  • allowing educators to monitor the learning process and identify problems in time for early interventions
  • helping educators discover patterns in student behaviour, engagement, and understanding which they can use to improve course materials and delivery
  • providing quantitative methods educators can use to assess the usefulness of a particular material or activity
  • encouraging learners to monitor their own activities and learning processes, including comparing their activity with their peers
  • improving student participation

For more information or to read the full report, visit Open University's blog.