Developing a Learning Analytics Strategy for a Higher Education Institution – Workshop at Cetis14

Interest in Learning Analytics has moved from researchers to early adopters and the topic is now starting to invite a strategic response at institutional level. In June 2014, LACE offered a half-day workshop at the Cetis Conference 2014, “Building the Digital Institution”, to bring together interested parties to explore what such a strategic response might look like, and to capture the thinking that emerges for sharing with the wider community.

Workshop Method

The intention was to be very practical and pragmatic, rather than idealistic or theoretical. Pragmatism should not, however, be understood to mean that ethical, cultural, epistemological, or pedagogical concerns were be brushed to one side; these are surely essential considerations for an effective strategy.

This workshop included:

  • A small number of lightning talks.
  • Post-it idea sort of the issues.
  • Group-work using the “LA Strategy Canvas” (see below)

Group work will use an adapted form of Alex Osterwalder‘s Business Model Canvas. This has been adapted and re-imagined by numerous people and applied outside the confines of the Business World. It has, for example, been adapted for planning social enterprise ventures and Tom Graves has written about the way in which “value” should be re-interpreted for non-profit adaptation of the Business Model Canvas.

We will be using our own adaptation of the Business Model Canvas for the workshop, because of this evidence that the approach can be adapted to situations where value does not equate to money, but which share dimensions of strategy: characterising stakeholders and the how they relate to the strategy and its value propositions; identification of key activities, resources required, and costs; the role of partnerships; the capture of funding.


Adaptation of the Business Model Canvas for the workshop (this may be subject to some change prior to the workshop). Click on the image to download a PDF version (55kB).

A scenario was created – the University of Lower Quartile Scenario – to avoid the need for groups, whose members came from diverse organisations, to discuss and agree on factors that may influence strategy formation.

Useful Resources

Here is the reading list for the workshop:

Other stimulus material:

Results of the Workshop

Photographs of the groupwork are available.

The facilitator has written an informal article exploring “Do Higher Education Institutions Need a Learning Analytics Strategy“, based on the experience of the workshop.

Mapping Issues

One of the group exercises in the workshop was to brainstorm issues that should be faced when considering a LA strategy. These were sorted according to two properties, one to position the issue in terms of its complexity, and another in terms of its social:technical balance.

The complexity dimension was outlined as ranging through four stereotypes:

  1. There are obvious answers – we just need resource to get on.
  2. There is general agreement about how to deal with the issue, but some dissenters.
  3. It is a challenging issue for which a compromise approach will be hard-won.
  4. It is a wicked problem – we can’t even agree on the question

The social:technical dimension is less easy to describe as a continuum but was characterised as ranging from:

  1. A purely social or cultural issue.
  2. An issue where technology shapes the social/cultural.
  3. A broadly technology-related problem faced by various people.
  4. A purely technical (IT, statistics, etc) issue.

The outputs from the group-work have been merged, with some editing (check the original photographs of the groupwork) to produce the following issues map.

Map of issues for a learning analytics strategy.

Map of issues for a learning analytics strategy. Click the image to enlarge it, or visit the original Padlet from which the image was created.