Learning Analytics – Critical Factors
The field of Analytics certainly appears to offer much to the field of education. However there are a number of critical factors to consider.
Firstly, analytics revolves around the collection of data about people. As with any such activity we need to be aware of any possible ethical dimensions to this, and make sure that we adhere to the key principles around data collection and Data Protection.
Secondly, the potential forms of analytics described above all address different and potentially isolated silos of learners’ activities. In reality of course people function far more holistically than this – so in principle the same learner will get books out of the University’s library, log into the VLE, take part in discussion forums, complete formative online quizzes, communicate with their peers via social networks and submit summative assessment via the VLE again. All of these together represent the activities of a holistic individual, and they all leave their own small digital footprints, but they are largely in disparate and (probably) not very interoperable systems. Taking all this data together to get this holistic view is a non trivial task, and whilst all the vendors of the relevant systems have got analytics on their roadmaps, we are certainly some distance from a magic big red “Do Analytics” button.
Finally we must remember that having analytical procedures in the absence of some underlying theoretical perspective is unlikely to yield those essential “actionable insights” that will be of any value, and this makes it quite different from the Business Information analytics used by online retailers. Above all – we need to remember the learners in learning analytics.