Learning Analytics: Not just about measuring but engaging students!


Using learning analytics as a means to engage students was the common theme emerging from a workshop gathering UK higher ed professionals.

The Lace project ran a workshop on “Learning Analytics: seeking answers at a time of big questions?” at the ALT conference 2014 on 1st September in Warwick, UK. The workshop was designed to bring together educators, researchers and developers to explore the promises and the pitfalls of using learning analytics in education.  A brief introduction to the workshop is available here.

Learning Analytics should support Student Engagement (Photo: Li Yuan)

Learning Analytics should support Student Engagement (Photo: Li Yuan)

At the workshop, participants were invited to work in groups to develop scenarios around learning analytics in institutions and the issues and concerns related to using data in education, teaching and learning. About 30 participants from HE institutions, commercial companies and other educational organisations shared their thoughts, experiences and current projects and work on learning analytics.

Although four groups worked independently, not surprisingly, a common theme emerged at the plenary session: using learning analytics as a means to engage students. Several scenarios were developed around building dashboards to track student engagement; monitoring student performance; supporting individual and group online learning; and engaging international students, distance learners and students in MOOCs, etc.

Some questions around using analytics in institutions were discussed in the groups, such as:

  • What are the motivations for using learning analytics?
  • What systems, tools and data are available?
  • How reliable are the data?
  • How up-to-date are the data?
  • How can data from multiple sources (LMS/VLE, Facebook, Twitter) monitored and analysed?
  • How may we identify similar behaviours among high or low performance students?
Learning Analytics provide students with a Dashboard (Photo: Li Yuan)

Learning Analytics provide students with a Dashboard (Photo: Li Yuan)

General concerns were around privacy and data protection as well as accuracy of data collected about students and their online activities. Other concerns and suggestions included:

  • Don’t get bogged down with the numbers
  • Need better performance metrics and actual impact indicators;
  • Need to have the right data and the right human interpretation;
  • Danger of too much details that may discourage meaningful learning
  • Course should be designed with analytics in mind
  • Data formats and interoperability for data sharing

Due to the time constraints of the workshop, with participants from different types of organisations with various level of knowledge and skills on learning analytics, it was difficult to have a deep discussion around such a broad and challenging topic.  However, most participants thought that the workshop provided an opportunity for them to find out what other people and institutions are thinking and doing, and to share their ideas and experiences, in this case, how to engage students through learning analytics.


Good discussions at the LACE project workshop at ALT-C14, 1st September 2014 (Photo: Li Yuan)



About Author

Li Yuan works for Cetis, the Centre for Educational Technology and Interoperability Standards, UK. As a Senior Researcher and Learning Technology Advisor, Li has been involved supporting the UKOER programme and worked on the EU funded “TEL-Map” project. Her main areas of interest involve investigating and understanding emerging technologies and innovative practices in education. In LACE Li facilitates community exchange and conversations to explore shared understanding on the fundamental questions and challenges of using learning analytics in education.