What Benefits Can Learning Analytics Provide?

Back to the full list of FAQs about learning analytics:

1. What Benefits Can Learning Analytics Provide?

Used effectively learning analytics can help achieve a better student  experience with students benefitting from a more personalised learning experience. Learning analytics can also help to improve student retention by, for example, highlighting where extra support is required at an early stage.

2. Gathering Evidence of the Benefits of Learning Analytics

Since learning analytics is a relatively new area there is still a need to gather evidence of the benefits which learning analytics can provide and systematically examine the evidence.

There are a number of initiative which aim to systematically gather evidence including:

  • The EU-funded LACE project’s Evidence Hub which “aims to gather the evidence about learning analytics, and relate it to a group of propositions. We hope that by gathering the evidence together in this way, we will get a better picture of what we know – and, of course, what we don’t know[1].
  • Work in New Zealand by Ako Aotearoa’s on Building an evidence-base for teaching and learning design using learning analytics data: which aims “to identify teaching and learning design questions that can be answered by the learning analytics data available through common elearning systems[2].

Research presented at conferences such as LAK14 [3] and LAK15 [4] may provide evidence which is subsequently synthesised by the LACE project’s Evidence Hub.

3. What Evidence is There of The Benefits?

Improved student experience

In a post published in The Pie News [5] Dr Paul Dowland, Senior Lecturer at Plymouth University described how data on the online activity of students collected by learning systems is being used effectively to identify top resources, improve the student experience and underpin success at university.

Better student retention

As part of the Jisc-funded FulCRM project [6] the University of Roehampton used student activity data from a variety of sources to support student progression and retention, especially addressing causes of non-completion. The final report [7] describes how:

The decision was taken in the Psychology Department to implement a Student Early Warning System (EWS) which would centrally collate such data and flag up students, early in the first term, who were at risk of failing to progress. The system was designed to act as a safety net for students who were struggling to engage with the programme and to offer them extra help and support before things got too serious. In its first year of operation, the EWS system saw student progression rates improve by 14%

Cost saving through efficient practice

A paper on “Reducing Costs through Online Learning Five Proven Strategies from the US, Canada, the UK and Australia 2013[8] admits that ““The consensus seems to be that no amount of research will ever result in a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to the question of whether or not online learning saves money while maintaining quality“. The paper goes on to add that “However, through experience in universities and colleges much has been learned about the potential and realities of cost saving through the application of various components of online learning“.

4. Conclusions

Although we are starting to see evidence being provided of the benefits of learning analytics it should be noted that in these early stages institutions should not regard adoption of learning analytics as a guarantee of providing benefits to the institution or the learner.

It is perhaps worth concluding this FAQ by referring to the concluding remarks in the paper on “Reducing Costs through Online Learning Five Proven Strategies from the US, Canada, the UK and Australia 2013” [8]:

Our challenge is to both continue with productivity and cost reduction initiatives without losing sight of our primary purposes of spreading education to develop our society and workforce, and promote civility and an enlightened citizenry“.

References

[1] LACE Evidence Hub, LACE project web site, http://evidence.laceproject.eu/

[2] Building an Evidence-base for Teaching and Learning Design using Learning Analytics Data, Ako Aotearoa web site, https://akoaotearoa.ac.nz/using-learning-analytics

[3] The 4th International Conference on Learning Analytics and Knowledge, LAK14 web site, https://lak14indy.wordpress.com/

[4] Scaling Up: Big Data to Big Impact: The 5th International Learning Analytics and Knowledge (LAK) Conference!, LAK15 web site, http://lak15.solaresearch.org/

[5] Using student analytics to improve the student experience and underpin success at university, Beckie Smith, 27 June 2014, The PIE News, http://blog.thepienews.com/2014/06/using-student-analytics-to-improve-the-student-experience-and-underpin-success-at-university/

[6] Project FulCRM, Jisc, http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/bce/relationshipmanagement2/fulcrm.aspx

[7] Case study final document, FulCRM, University of Roehampton, http://www.roehampton.ac.uk/uploadedFiles/Pages_Assets/PDFs_and_Word_Docs/JISC_Projects/fulCRM/Project_documents/Case-study-final-document.pdf

[8] Reducing Costs through Online Learning Five Proven Strategies from the US, Canada, the UK and Australia 2013, http://contactnorth.ca/sites/default/files/reducing_costs_through_online_learning.pdf

Further Reading