LACE has been invited to discuss ‘data interoperability‘ and ‘learning analytics supported instructional design methods‘ at the University of Catalonia (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) at an Open Conference with various workshops.
With all the fog around questions like ‘What is the right Learning Analytics Infrastructure?’ and ‘Do we collect the data in the right way and will the approach be stable and scalable towards Big Data?‘ it was great to exchange best practices and knowledge about data collection, processing, mining, and interoperability aspects of learning data. The LACE interoperability studies have proven to be very supportive and well appreciated. The UoC eLearnCenter runs a very smart data science group named LAIKA with Julià Minguillón has head of unit, that confirmed our approach and showed great additions to the data and infrastructure aspects we describe in the upcoming deliverables and publications.
In general the eLearnCener and the UoC are very advanced in their data science strategy. The organisation is surely located on level 3 and partly already on level 4, when considering the Learning Analytics sophistication model from Siemens, G., Dawson, S., & Lynch, G. (2014). They have all their supporting systems, starting from marketing over the LMS until alumni system, connect to their learning analytics infrastructure and can follow a student trough the whole student life cycle.
Below the presentation I gave to introduce the Learning Analytics Interoperability workshop. After the presentation we had a fruitful discussion on Learning Analytics data & infrastructures. We all have been very pleased to see that the LACE, Open University of the Netherlands, University of Amsterdam, and the UoC approach heading towards the same direction for the learning analytics infrastructure. Therefore, very detailed discussions on pro- and cons of different non-relational databases, xAPI recipes, ETL layers, and LRS have been possible. It also became clear, that real data interoperability and joined data standards are difficult already now. The devil is like always in the details ;). Although on a meta-level all organisation heading towards comparable infrastructures, we are using different verbs and terms to track activities. This started from selecting the different verbs from xAPI until having language issues of Dutch, English and Catalan in our data collection. We were wondering if that will be the big return of the Semantic web and ontology research.
But the big challenge the UoC is fighting right now is to better understand the behaviour of their students to customise their courses and reduce the drop-out rate. The LIKA team has already been able to demystify some wrong beliefs like ‘their distance education students always study at the weekend and in their spare time’. The data showed that this just was not true because Catalan people seem to block this time for family life and rahter study harder before and after work during the week.
While the UoC is already very advanced in their learning analytics infrastructure, they face the issue of change management within their organisation. Thus increasing awareness of the possibilities of learning analytics within the orgnisation, educate the teachers to think about innovative instructions that take advantage of learning analytics support, and change the behaviour towards using learning analytics tools in their daily routines.
LACE organised one workshop on ‘Learning Analytics supported Instructional Design‘ and already after 90 minutes we crafted a forum discussion evaluation tool with data from the UoC eLearnCenter and teachers from different disciplines. The teachers have been very surprised that such a tool would be possible within their environment and confirmed that they could save a lot of time in supporting and assessing the forum contributions of the students. The eLearnCenter promised the teachers to develop the tool in the upcoming months and wanted to set it out in a pilot study.
To sum up, the Open conference at the UoC in Barcelona was a great event with plenty of positive and innovative energy towards a data driven distanced Universities.