The PELARS project (Practice-based Experiential Learning Analytics Research And Support) invited me to Brussels for their Policies for using Big Data event on 9 November. The aim of the workshop was to raise awareness about the potential of analysis of data produced by learning technologies to catalyze the effective design of adaptive teaching, learning and assessment at scale. The aim was to bring together people interested in exploring the state-of-the-art of learning analytics, as well as to be informed about opportunities and barriers for adoption.
I chaired the panel discussion at the event, and was also able to talk to participants about the LACE project, following a presentation on LACE by Hendrik Drachsler.
Il-Hyun talked about the problems associated with learning analytics in a country where grades are allocated in relation to a normal distribution curve – so if one student’s grades go up, another student’s grades will go do – and where competition to enter universities is so intense that retention is not viewed as a problem.
The book MOOCS and Open Education Around the World, to which I contributed a chapter, has been very successful. Most recently, it won a DDL Distance Education Book Award. This award is presented in recognition of a print or digital book published within the last three years that describes important theoretical or practical aspects of distance education that can help others involved in distance education or those researching an important aspect of distance education. The primary focus of the book must be directly related to distance education.
AECT Division of Distance Learning (DDL) Distance Education Book Award. 2016 – First Place. MOOCs and Open Education around the World, Editors: Curtis J. Bonk, Mimi M. Lee, Thomas C. Reeves and Thomas H. Reynolds. NY: Routledge. Presented at the 2016 Conference of the Association for Educational Technology and Communications, Las Vegas.
While I was in Seoul in September, I took part in the Asian Learning Analytics Summer Institute (LASI Asia). I was joined there by members of the LACE team, who included the event as part of the LACE tour of Asia, which also took in Japan and Korea.
During LASI Asia, I gave a talk about what is on the horizon for learning analytics. This went into more detail, and was aimed at a more specialist audience, than my talk at e-Learning Korea. I also took part in a couple of panel discussions. The first was on how to build an international community on learning analytics research, and the second was on the achievements of learning analytics research and next steps.
There is general agreement that the importance of learning analytics is likely to increase in the coming decade. However, little guidance for policy makers has been forthcoming from the technologists, educationalists and teachers who are driving the development of learning analytics. The Visions of the Future study was carried out by the LACE project in to order to provide some perspectives that could feed into the policy process.
The study took the form of a ‘policy Delphi’, which is to say that it was not concerned with certainty about the future, but rather focused on understanding the trends issues which will be driving the field forward in the coming years. The project partners developed eight visions of the future of learning analytics in 2025. These visions were shared with invited experts and LACE contacts through an online questionnaire, and consultation with stakeholders was carried out at events. Respondents were asked to rate the visions in terms of their feasibility and desirability, and the actions which should be taken in the light of their judgements. 487 responses to visions were received from 133 people. The views of the respondents on how the future may evolve are both interesting and entertaining. More significantly, analysis of the ratings and free text responses showed that for the experts and practitioners who engaged in the study, there was a consensus around a number of points which are shaping the future of learning analytics.
1. There is a lot of enthusiasm for Learning Analytics, but concern that its potential will not be fulfilled. It is therefore appropriate for policy makers to take a role.
2. Policies and infrastructure are necessary to strengthen the rights of the data subject.
3. Interoperability specifications and open infrastructures are an essential enabling technology. These can support the rights of the data subject, and ensure control of analytics processes at the appropriate level.
4. Learning analytics should not imply automation of teaching and learning.
The full results of the study are published in a report at http://www.laceproject.eu/deliverables/d3-2-visions-of-the-future-2/.
In this session the visions explored by the LACE study will be presented, the conclusions discussed, and the audience will take part in an impromptu mapping of the most desirable and feasible vision of the future for learning analytics in Asia.
Learning analytics involve the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, in order to understand and optimise learning and the environments in which it occurs. Since emerging as a distinct field in 2011, learning analytics has grown rapidly, and early adopters around the world are already developing and deploying these new tools. However, it is not enough for us to develop analytics for our educational systems as they are now – we need to take into account how teaching and learning will take place in the future. The current fast pace of change means that if, in April 2006, we had begun developing learning analytics for 2016, we might not have planned specifically for learning with and through social networks (Twitter was launched in July 2006), with smartphones (the first iPhone was released in 2007), or learning at scale (the term MOOC was coined in 2008). By thinking ahead and by consulting with experts, though, we might have come pretty close by taking into account existing work on networked learning, mobile learning and connectivism. In this talk, Rebecca will introduce a range of different scenarios that explore different ways in which learning analytics could develop in the future. She will share the results of an international Policy Delphi study, which was designed for the systematic solicitation and collation of informed judgments on visions of learning analytics in 2025. The study explored underlying assumptions and information leading to differing judgments on learning analytics, and brought together informed judgments about the field. The findings of the Policy Delphi, together with other studies, are now being used to develop action plans that will help us to develop analytics to support learners and educators in the future.
While at the conference, I also took part in a panel discussion entitled, ‘Next step of ‘e-Learning for Smart, Connected World’
MOOCs: What the Open University research tells us recommends priority areas for activity in relation to massive open online courses (MOOCs). It does this by bringing together all The Open University’s published research work in this area from the launch of the first MOOC in 2008 until February 2016.
The report provides brief summaries of, and links to, all publications stored in the university’s Open Research Online (ORO) repository that use the word ‘MOOC’ in their title or abstract. Full references for all studies are provided in the bibliography.
Studies are divided thematically, and the report contains sections on the pedagogy of MOOCs, MOOCs and open education, MOOC retention and motivation, working together in MOOCs, MOOC assessment, accessibility, privacy and ethics, quality and other areas of MOOC research.
The report identifies ten priority areas for future work:
- Influence the direction of open education globally
- Develop and accredit learning journeys
- Extend the relationship between learners and the university
- Make effective use of learning design
- Make use of effective distance learning pedagogies
- Widen participation
- Offer well-designed assessment
- Pay attention to quality assurance
- Pay attention to privacy and ethics
- Expand the benefits of learning from MOOCs
While I was in Montevideo, at the invitation of Plan Ceibal, I was interviewed about learning analytics. This playlist of four short videos (subtitled in Spanish) deals with the potential of Big Data to improve learning, how The Open University has used learning analytics, and the work of the LACE and LAEP projects.
I talk about how analytics can be used to identify when students are dropping behind, how they can be used to identify successful routes through courses, and how they can identify types of learning design that lead to student success.
I note that the supply of learning analytics is growing, but it is not clear that the demand is growing in the same way. Researchers and developers need to engage more with educators at every stage in order to identify the problems they need to be solved and the questions that they need to have answered.
I also talk about the need to align learning analytics with strategic priorities for education and training, not only at institutional level, but also at national and international level.
My videos are followed in the playlist with videos from Professor Dragan Gasevic, chair of the Society for Learning Analytics (SoLAR).