On Wednesday 12 November 2014 a group of 35 decision-makers and decision-shapers from some 15 European countries met in Zurich, Switzerland to discuss learning analytics and education. It was the Policy and Innovation Committee from European Schoolnet, its Digital Competence Working Group and representatives from LACE.
The meeting started off with an inspiring talk by Pierre Dillenbourg from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne who showed examples from his research both related to MOOCS and on-campus teaching and learning. He used eye-trackers on both students and teachers as well as video cameras to track the teachers’ movement in class. The data were related to student achievements to see if any interesting patterns occurred that could improve learning. The talk was an excellent example of the fact that educational science is moving away from a situation with a lot of theories but poor data to a position where there might be an abundance of data.
Doug Clow from Open University (UK) and Yngve Lindvig from a Norwegian company called Conexus gave an overview of what learning analytics is. And together with myself they gave some examples of actual use cases, i.e. how is learning analytics applied in schools in Europe as of today.
There was also a presentation from Daniel Kohler from University of Basel on a project in the medical faculty regarding a database of exams and test items which have turned into a product called Beaxi.com which facilitates educational institutions to build, refine and manage databases of tests, which are taken by students using iPads.
In the discussion that followed it became clear that the situation regarding learning analytics is quite different in different European countries. With the risk of over-simplifying, one might say that the North-west part of Europe seems to be more up-to-date with these issues than the rest of Europe. The need for a learning analytics ecosystem was mentioned several times as a way of avoiding a situation where we end up measuring only the things that are easy to measure, but which are not necessarily the things that are important for school development or for individual learners. One might need to complement “hard data” from performances etcetera with “soft data” from self-assessments to get a more complete picture. There was a lot of interest in measuring or assessing key competencies and 21st Century Skills.
The meeting ended with a discussion on if and how the European Schoolnet (EUN) could and should approach learning analytics in the future. One possible action line that was discussed was for EUN to engage itself in issues regarding standards and interoperability, as they have before. Another idea was to have a learning analytics component in all relevant upcoming projects. But the most important future action was to continue the exchange of experiences and views on the developments in the respective countries.
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