Learning analytics: asking the right questions

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The ECTEL / iKNOW conferences are just coming to an end in Austria and both learning analytics and big data have been high on the agenda. There was the Big Data day, the big data keynotes, the learning analytics strand and, of course, workshops and presentations from LACE project members.

We heard about research projects from across the world, involving different types of learner, educator, institution and data. Questions to presenters were very varied, from large scale to small scale, from methodology to setting. That’s to be expected – we all have our own areas of expertise and our own perspectives. But shouldn’t there be some things we want to know about all these projects?

Shouldn’t there be some questions to which we demand answers? Questions such as:

  • What surprised you about your results? Did the same things surprise the learners and educators involved (or did they know all that already?)
  • Could you have found out the same things more easily / quickly / cheaply by, for example, interviewing learners and teachers or looking at previous reports and literature? (Are you sure?)
  • Were the time and effort you put into the project worth it? (If you were a multi-millionaire, would you gladly have spent your own money on the project?)
  • What changes to teaching and learning have you made or planned as a result of your work?
  • Who has benefited from your study (be honest – was it just you?)
  • What will be your next steps in order to ensure that your work helps to optimise learning and the environments in which it occurs?

I would like reviewers to be asking these questions, and funders to be asking these questions, and study participants to be asking these questions and researchers to be asking themselves these questions.

Are these the questions you ask about learning analytics research, or do you have other priorities?

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About Author

Rebecca is a lecturer at The Open University in the UK, focused on educational futures, learning analytics, MOOCs, augmented learning and online social learning. She is a member of the steering committee of the Society for Learning Analytics Research (SoLAR) and was Workshops Chair of the second Learning Analytics and Knowledge conference (LAK 2012). She co-chaired the 1st and 2nd International Workshops on Discourse-Centric Learning Analytics, held in Belgium and the US, as well as the first UK SoLAR Flare (a national learning analytics event). Her most recent publication is the book ‘Augmented Education’, published by Palgrave in May 2014. Rebecca is working on the LACE work package relating to learning analytics in higher education.

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