Mon 9 Nov 2015
Comments Off on Learning Analytics – hype re-labelling of matter
I am reviewing papers for next year’s LAK16 conference in Edinburgh. Reading through the submissions, I realised the hype that Learning Analytics enjoys at present in the educational technology and data community and beyond. While this can be considered a positive push into an innovative direction by enthusiasts, it is partly also played as a tactical game by some. What was previously a perfectly acceptable empirical study and educational experiment, is now being re-labelled and sold as Learning Analytics. Of course, these two can have various practical and theoretical overlaps, but, at least in my mind, there are also some notable distinctive characteristics.
I saw this re-labelling happen many times before. My previous university offered so-called “master classes”, which basically were one-week online CPD courses. When the MOOC hype broke out, these webinars, quite instantly, became MOOCs and academics went around shouting out loud “yes, we do MOOCs!”
So what are the differences between traditional empirical studies and Learning Analytics. Among the characteristics are (at least in my understanding) the following:
- Big Data instead of small samples. We are talking here about a vast pool of educational datasets, not one that is focused on a particular research question.
- Repetition: Learning Analytics is repeatedly done over the same (or very similar) data pool and data subjects, not a one-off action. LA gives continuous feedback.
- Automatism and algorithms: Automatic data collection paired with some processing formula that is (automatically) applied onto the dataset rather than hand-made analysis.
I know these characteristics are “quick and dirty” and perhaps neither comprehensive nor undisputable, but in order to focus the future Learning Analytics community on quality of field-related research it is necessary to clarify basic parameters in addition to the by now well-established definitions for Learning Analytics (Siemens, Fergusson, and others).