How can learning analytics be useful to Schools across the University?

Photo credit: unsplash, Carlos Muza, CC0

In this post, Rebecca Collins, a third year Mathematics and Statistics student, introduces a guide for staff on using learning analytics, created during an Employ.ed On Campus Internship in the School of Health in Social Science…

If only 5% of the students on a course read their assessment feedback, then should staff bother to write it for every student?

If a lecturer can see that one of their lecture recordings has had far more views than the others on the course, might they want to find out why that is? Was the content too difficult?

Or, if a student is performing below expectations or not engaging with the course, would having this automatically flagged to staff mean they intervene sooner and give the student a better chance of succeeding?

The process of collecting and analysing data about the way students learn and engage with their courses, including data that can answer these questions, is called learning analytics.

Learn and Echo 360 are just two of the main areas that have built-in analytics tools for staff to use, holding a huge amount of data at a course and individual student level.
This summer, I have interned in the School of Health in Social Science to research learning analytics and find out how it can be useful to the School. A large part of this has involved me meeting with members of staff in a variety of roles to understand if learning analytics are currently being used and, if so, what kinds of data have proved to be the most insightful.

To my surprise, I found that very little analytics are being used. Given that learning analytics have the power to better understand the student learning experience and therefore to improve future teaching and support students more effectively, then why aren’t staff using it?

The main reasons staff gave me for this are as follows:

  • They have never heard of learning analytics or been shown how to use them.
  • They don’t have the capacity to add to their workload.
  • They aren’t sure what they would gain from looking at data.
  • No one group of staff in the School has been given the responsibility of doing the analytics – so no one does it.

After hearing these reasons, it would suggest that other Schools across the University are likely to be in the same position, so I wrote this blog post to get more people to think about learning analytics around the University and to share the output of my internship to a wider audience.

I used my internship to create a guide for staff on using analytics, providing recommendations the School should consider moving forwards.

A Guide to Learning Analytics, by Rebecca Collins

Whilst the guide was targeted towards the School of Health in Social Science, the information within it is applicable to all Schools at the University, so I would urge all teaching staff to consider using learning analytics.

As ever more data is collected and analysed within educational settings, the potential for analytics will only increase, so getting to grips with it now will help the University adapt to future data analysis technologies – they are surely on the way.

Rebecca Collins

Rebecca Collins is a third year Mathematics and Statistics student. In summer 2019, she was an intern in the School of Health in Social Science, researching Learning Analytics.

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