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.
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.
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.
Here is the reading list for the workshop:
- George Siemens, Shane Dawson and Grace Lynch produced a paper for the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching with the subtitle “Policy and Strategy for Systems-Level Deployment of Learning Analytics” in December 2013. It provides some conceptual background, a number of brief case studies, and some recommendations.
- The “Beyond Prototypes” report from the Technology Enhanced Learning Research Programme is not specific to Learning Analytics but contains some useful insights into the matrix of factors at work in the space between prototypes and adoption.
- The inaugural issue of the Journal of Learning Analytics contains a cautionary tale from John P Buerck, “A Resource-Constrained Approach to Implementing Analytics in an Institution of Higher Education: An Experience Report“.
Other stimulus material:
- As part of the LAMP (library analytics) project, David Kay has written about the use of user stories to understand stakeholder requirements, i.e. to construct an understanding of what meaningful analytics would be for, in this case, academic library professionals.
- The agenda for the WCET Boot Camp on Building Institutional Readiness for Data Analytics suggests areas that may be in need of attention. (agenda link, pdf)
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.
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:
- There are obvious answers – we just need resource to get on.
- There is general agreement about how to deal with the issue, but some dissenters.
- It is a challenging issue for which a compromise approach will be hard-won.
- 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:
- A purely social or cultural issue.
- An issue where technology shapes the social/cultural.
- A broadly technology-related problem faced by various people.
- 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.