Tue 25 Nov 2014
I am not easily impressed by academic papers these days, despite spending much time reviewing submissions to journals, conferences, or workshops. Neither do I propose best paper awards lightly. Here is the rare positive exception: A submission to the LAK15 conference authored by researchers from the Queensland University of Technology in Australia.
The authors propose what they call a Connected Learning Analytics (CLA) toolkit that takes learning analytics well into connected open online learning (including MOOCs). This area has previously been a bit of a stumble as cMOOCs allow students to use any kind of online platform or social network to connect and interact with peers, but analytics were largely unable to follow them in order to provide comprehensive statistical overviews. In institutional learning too analytics have hitherto been siloed in LMSs and, there, analytics have been confined to what the vendors provide – which typically is very little, and, equally typical, is oriented toward business intelligence rather than learning. Yet, almost all learning in formal and informal environments today is enhanced by social learning experiences and networks such as twitter or facebook.
Analytics is something that in most institutional settings is done to students rather than by students. The paper clearly breaks with this approach. In our framework on Learning Analytics my colleague and I strongly proposed pedagogic reflection as the key to learning with analytics. Still, most statistical approaches leave analytics in the hands of institutions with the aim of achieving effectiveness measures on academic staff or materials rather than providing pedagogic support. In this setting, students are primarily the data subjects, not the beneficiaries or clients. This is remarkably different in the proposed paper, as it puts students in control of their LA.
The article proposes a student owned method to connect different (social) learning tools to an analytics engine. It uses a subscription method that the students control. What impressed me in the order of magnitude to suggest it as best paper was where the paper went beyond the general technical description of the tool and accompanying ontology to map social network functions to one-another (‘likes’ to ‘+1′ to ‘thumbs-up’ etc.). The authors spent enormous thought, care, and consideration on student centredness, pedagogic reflection, competences, security, data ownership, and even interoperability/portability for lifelong learning.