Archive for category SoLAR

Human-centred learning analytics

The three editors of the special issue, pictured at LAK19: SImon, Rebecca and Roberto Out today – special section of the Journal of Learning Analytics, edited by Simon Buckingham Shum, Roberto Martinez-Maldonado and I. The section was inspired by the focus of the LAK18 conference on user-centred learning analytics.

The special section begins with a paper by Simon, Roberto and I that looks at the benefits and challenges of using human-centred approaches within learning analytics.


The design of effective learning analytics (LA) extends beyond sound technical and pedagogical principles. If analytics are to be adopted and used successfully to support learning and teaching, their design process needs to take into account a range of human factors, including why and how they will be used. In this editorial, we introduce principles of human-centred design developed in other, related fields that can be adopted and adapted to support the development of human-centred learning analytics (HCLA). We draw on the papers in this special section, together with the wider literature, to define human-centred design in the field of LA and to identify the benefits and challenges that this approach offers. We conclude by suggesting that HCLA will enable the community to achieve more impact, more quickly, with tools that are fit for the purpose and a pleasure to use.


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Learning Analytics Summer Institute

Tweet about the tutorialEvery year, the Society for Learning Analytics Research (SoLAR) runs a Learning Analytics Summer Institute (LASI) in North America, often alongside related LASI events around the world. I’ve attended LASI events in Spain, Norway, and the UK in different years. This year, I’m at the main event, held at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. It’s one of the biggest LASI events ever, with almost 140 people here for tutorials and workshops related to learning analytics. I’m here running a couple of tutorials about qualitative approaches to learning analytics.

Qualitative approaches to learning analytics

Learning analytics is a field concerned with ‘the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts’. This implies a quantitative approach. However, it has become increasingly clear that ‘understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs’ also requires qualitative approaches.

Qualitative approaches can be used to understand why learners and teachers act as they do, to explain their decisions, to explore the importance of context for learning analytics, and to increase the value of learning analytics tools and methods.

This tutorial is intended for participants who have little experience of qualitative research and would like to explore how it can be used in the context of learning analytics.

When you have successfully completed this tutorial, you will have developed your ability to:

  • decide when and why to use qualitative approaches in learning analytics research
  • design a qualitative research study
  • analyse qualitative data
  • establish the trustworthiness of qualitative research.
Group pictures taken at LASI

LASI workshop leads (top) and other attendees


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Learning Analytics and Knowledge 2019 (LAK19)

If it’s March, it must be the LAK conference. This year it was in sunny Tempe, at the Arizona State University (ASU), and I was lucky enough to be a Program chair once again – this time in an ex officio role as a previous program chair. The role involves a lot of hard work during the year, and it’s great to see it all coming together at the conference.

Highlights of the event for me (apart from the analytics research, of course) were the conference dinner in the Desert Botanical Garden, and the outdoor poster session around the fountain as night fell. ASU were great hosts, and many people told me it was the LAK that they had enjoyed the most (and that’s against some stiff competition).

The final day of the conference coincided with International Women’s Day, so we gathered on stage after the day’s keynote from Shirley Alexander for a photo that brings together the women of the Society for Learning Analytics Research (SoLAR).

LAK tweet

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LAK18 – Sydney

Banner - LAK18 was great (change my mind)A highlight of my year will surely be LAK18 – the annual Learning Analytics and Knowledge conference run by the Society for Learning Analytics Research (SoLAR). Together with Simon Buckingham Shum, Xavier Ochoa and Agathe Merceron, I was programme chair for the conference.

Our five days in Sydney were the culmination of more than a year’s hard work. We were really pleased with the attendance and the engagement at the conference, and the success of new initiatives such as double-blind peer review and the introduction of discussion around meta-reviews of the papers.

The next steps for us will be two special sections of the Journal of Learning Analytics – one related to the conference theme of human-centred design, and one including extended versions of the best papers. I shall also be ex officio programme chair of the next conference, at Arizona State in 2019.

Three images from the conferenceThe conference also provided a chance for many of the Learning Analytics Community Europe (LACE) organising team to meet up and make plans for the future.

LACE team


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Journal of Learning Analytics

Journal coverIn March, my time as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Learning Analytics came to an end.

The Associate Editors were appointed when the journal was first created. At the point when the journal is about to begin publishing its fifth volume, and is preparing to be indexed in the major databases, it was time for a refresh of the organisation. The loose group of Associate Editors has been replaced with an international Editorial Board.

I’ll be maintaining my connection with the journal by working on a special section on human-centred design, due for publication in the first half of 2019.

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SoLAR Executive

SoLAR logoMy first term of office on the Executive Committee of the Society for Learning Analytics Research (SoLAR) came to an end early this year. I have spent the last year working for the society by acting as one of the Programme Chairs of its annual LAK conference, attending monthly online meetings, and contributing to debate about the society’s initiatives.

I was nominated to stand for election as president-in-waiting of the society, but chose not to put myself forward for this demanding post. However, I did stand for the executive once again and was delighted to be notified on my birthday that I had been re-elected by members of the society as a member at large.

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eTwinning: Seville

JRCI am just back from an expert workshop held at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Seville.

The EU has a very large database, covering 12 years, related to a European-wide project called etwinning. This project puts teachers in touch with each other across Europe so that they can share ideas and innovation, develop their professional and digital skills and, specifically, join together to develop and carry out projects involving their pupils. The database covers activity and interactions on that platform by many thousands of individual teachers.

The JRC is interested in using this dataset to generate actionable insights that can help teachers and learners across Europe. The expert workshop brought together researchers from across Europe to discuss different ways of doing this. The participants brought many different perspectives to the event – some had worked with the platform for years, some came from Ministries of Education, others had explored large educational datasets in the past or had organised large studies.

Together, we identified different questions that the database could help to answer, and discussed ways in which it could be related to external data sources.


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