At the CAL Conference 2011 in Manchester, I set up and ran a symposium on learning analytics.
‘Learning analytics is the use of intelligent data, learner-produced data, and analysis models to discover information and social connections, and to predict and advise on learning’ (Siemens, 2010). Educators have a long history of using data to examine, analyse and evaluate teaching and learning. The recent increase both in the number of students engaged in online learning and in the variety of tools available to support this activity can mean that the amount of data and resources available proves confusing and overwhelming. Educators and learners urgently need analytics that will help them to evaluate and use these new tools and resources effectively to support teaching and learning.
This symposium presents research carried out at The Open University, the UK’s largest provider of online education with over 180,000 students currently registered, and many thousands more accessing its learning materials through open learning programmes such as Open Learn, iTunesU and iSpot. The OU has been producing wholly online undergraduate courses since 1999 and has, since its foundation, made use of learning analytics to support its students and tutors.
The four papers in this symposium deal with issues that have prompted the current worldwide interest in learning analytics: the need to improve learners’ experience, the emergence of new tools to support data analysis, the overwhelming increase in online resources, and the development of new tools for learning and teaching.