Machine learning, MOOCs and LACE work at LAK14

Rebecca Ferguson speaking at LAK14

Rebecca Ferguson speaking at LAK14

Learning Analytics and Knowledge (LAK) is the major international conference for learning analytics. LAK14, in Indianapolis (24-28 March 2014), was the fourth of these and, like the others, it was largely focused on learning in the post-compulsory sector – universities and online courses. The LACE project was actively engaged in the conference, but also spent time reflecting on changes and developments in the field. Two themes emerged: MOOCs (massive open online courses) and machine learning.

MOOCs, of course, are the superstars of education at the moment. Attracting interest from around the world, and pulling in hundreds of thousands of learners, they are a source of fascination for venture capitalists, educators and, of course, researchers. In the context of LAK, a central attraction is that MOOCs appear to have a problem that can be solved by learning analytics. With tens of thousands of learners on a course, educators have little time to devote to individual students and need all the help they can get from data and analysis. How do people study in these environments? What makes them learn? What makes them drop out? The massive amounts of data generated by these courses have the potential to help us answer these questions and to learn more about how learning and teaching really work.

While MOOCs were a subject of interest, machine learning was increasingly the method of interest. Machine learning deals with building and researching systems that can learn from data. Two types of researcher met at LAK. First, there were the machine learning specialists, interested in the increasingly large datasets produced by the educational sector and, secondly, there were the researchers interested in learning and teaching, who see machine learning as a way of getting answers to their questions. Dialogue between the groups, which is developing at LAK and other conferences, has the potential to be really fruitful, and the LACE project will be seeking to encourage this dialogue in future.

LACE project activity at LAK14

Rebecca Ferguson, OU UK

Doug Clow, OU UK

Hendrik Drachsler, OUNL

  • Workshop and Tutorial Chair, and chaired sessions on ‘Predictive Models and recommendations’ and ‘Learning analytics and Learning design’

  • Workshop: The learning analytics & knowledge (LAK) data challenge 2014 [ACM], Stefan Dietze, Mathieu D’Aquin, Taibi Davide, Eelco Herder and Hendrik Drachsler – see also the Storify

  • Paper presentation: The Impact of Learning Analytics on the Dutch Education System [ACM], Hendrik Drachsler, Slavi Stoyanov, Marcus Specht (Short Paper) – Group Concept Mapping exercise; called for participation in the LACE group concept mapping exercise on quality indicators for learning analytics from LAK attenders.

Following LAK14, LACE members Rebecca Ferguson, Doug Clow, Hendrik Drachsler and Adam Cooper went on to attend the Open Learning Analytics Summit. See Adam’s blog post for more on this.

A LACE project tweet and picture from LAK14
The LACE project tweeting at LAK14

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.

Leave A Reply