Are We Ready for Learning Analytics?
In today’s interview we’ll take a closer look at learning analytics, an international hot button education topic. As everything we do online creates massive intelligent data, we now are starting to use this data to create analyses of how every student learns best; when, how, alone or in larger groups and with what type of learning materials. By using big data we can “mirror” the student to find the right customized progress and pace. How can this be done? Connect Learning Today’s roving reporter, Lars Persen, has interviewed Erik Woning, Project manager at Kennisnet, a non-profit public organization promoting effective use of ICT in Dutch primary, secondary and vocational schools.
Lars Persen: Are there any real learner focused learning analytics systems already in use, or is this just still in its infancy of development?
Erik Woning: In the Netherlands we see that publishers and content developers are trying to find out what their new role in the value chain is. Education is now making the shift towards more digital learning environments, especially publishers and distributors of traditional books (we have 2 large distributors in the Netherlands). As a result, these organizations are trying to jump on the personalized learning train. Dashboards, Big Data, visualizations and analytics are their new marketing buzzwords. However, we still see little truly innovative and learner centric analytics solutions that are implemented. There are a few start-ups however those have the advantage of not needing to make the shift from a very traditional organization towards a radical new model. So indeed, adaptive learning platforms are still in diapers. But this is not only the ‘fault’ of the market. School leaders and teachers themselves actually have very little knowledge about these developments. Kennisnet is trying to get the discussion going, and we hope to create awareness at schools about this. Teachers and school leaders need to make their wishes and needs clear to the developers.
Persen: How can teachers and schools use learning analytics?
Woning: The promise in learning analytics lies in the possibility of creating more personalized education routes for students on a large scale. Analytics that are embedded in the learning practice can influence the learning practice and effectiveness of content. It also can provide students with a better understanding of their own learning habits and needs. Analytics that are extracted from the learning process can be used to make informed decisions in the secondary process.
Persen: So it can be use as a tool for teachers to guide their students?
Woning: When we ask teachers about their ‘ideal situation’, they all indicate that they want to have more time to coach and support students in their learning process. learning analytics can play a great part in supporting teachers by giving a more efficient overview of the progress and level of their students. However, most current systems mainly provide visualizations and statistics about the amount of correct or incorrect answers that students give. Which teachers actually find the least interesting. They want more insight in the learning process, solutions strategy, and way students think. And that is one of the most difficult things to grab in a digital platform.
Persen: Some critics of learning analytics mention securing student data as the dangers of implementing learning analytics. Others question accountability. Are there other obstacles?
Woning: The fact that most learning analytics solutions are measuring what is easy to measure means that a lot of context is being left out. This is one of the most challenging aspects of the implementation of learning analytics. We need to be careful that we don’t end up with a learning environment that only teaches those things that are easy to measure. But these obstacles are being tackled by researchers and developers that make use of more sophisticated ways to analyze the learning process. Furthermore, there isn’t enough well developed digital learning material that covers the full curriculum available, and there aren’t enough devices per student to make full use of the potential benefits.
Persen: How are you and Kennisnet working with learning analytics?
Woning: Kennisnet is talking to schools as well as publishers and content developers. We try to create awareness on the school level and inform schools of the opportunities and threats (i.e. vendor lock-in and privacy) that these developments bring. We’ve identified adaptive content, adaptive learning platforms and management information platforms as the first concrete solutions that are driven by learning analytics. However, due to the obstacles mentioned earlier, large-scale implementation is still 3 to 5 years away.
Persen: Erik Woning, thank you for your time in sharing more about learning analytics and Kennisnet today.
Woning: You’re very welcome Lars.
About the author:
Lars Persen is a pedagogical leader at Scandec Systemer, Norway. He is also a regular contributor to ConnectLearningToday.com.