Report from the LASI summer school in Bilbao

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LACE guest blog post: Mariluz Guenaga reports on the Learning Analytics Summer Institute – LASI 2015

LASI 2015 was hosted by the University of Deusto, Bilbao, Spain, and took place on the 22nd and 23rd of June. The University  accepted the challenge of organizing the event with enthusiasm and with the ambition of building a learning analytics community. In Spain, there are several research groups working in in the area, but they are fragmented and know little of each other’s work. Because of this, the event was organised to showcase the work of these groups, so as to identify common areas of interest and collaboration. Eight groups presented their work in fields as diverse as the use of learning analytics in MOOCs, tools for visual analytics and social data mining. The research groups involved were:

We also wanted to open up the community to the business sector, as they are essential partners in the exploitation and adoption of research results by the educational community. We were pleased to welcome the companies IBM, Euskaltel, Eticas Consulting and Ludei, who shared their experience and lessons learnt in the market.

As the name suggests, we intended LASI to be a summer institute. Participants were asked to forget about their usual roles as teachers and researchers, and to become students for two days. We invited two recognised experts in the area from whom we could learn, Ryan Baker and Sharon Hsiao (though unfortunately Ryan was unable to attend). We also organized hands-on workshops where participants could really do Learning Analytics: one workshop was about the importance of managing and improving data quality and the standardization of the representation of educational datasets, while other explored statistical techniques using R.

As organisers we are very satisfied with the results of LASI 2015. More than 60 people from across Spain attended the activities that were scheduled over two days. As we had planned, participants took advantage of the time set aside in the agenda for informal conversation to get a deeper knowledge of each other, discuss the work of different groups and to exchange experience and ideas.

The outcomes of LASI 2015, and the feedback gathered from the participants, encourage us to continue with this kind of joint initiative at a national level, as well as to establish collaborations with foreign groups and associations. Indeed at the time of the event the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO) published a call for the formation of networks of excellence, and many of us saw the opportunity to consolidate the Spanish Network of Learning Analytics (SNOLA). Today we are delighted to say that MINECO has approved SNOLA as a thematic network of excellence. This gives the Spanish LA community a great boost in moving forward with its work, sharing knowledge, as well as in promoting collaboration. An initial version of the SNOLA website is available at http://snola.deusto.es/

There are many videos of the presentations from the event on YouTube, just search for “LASI 2015 Deusto”.

Mariluz Guenaga, November 2015.  mlguenaga@deusto.es

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