Learning Analytics and its importance in Higher Education

By on February 5, 2018

Learning Analytics

Analytics has taken the world of business by storm enhancing outcomes and bringing desired results. Analytics is a useful tool that assists in decision making as it provides assessment of trends and helps implement initiatives with greater conviction. Analytics has spread to the field of education and is finding its footing as we speak. Of course, there is a huge difference between the number of use cases for analytics in business and for those in academics but Learning Analytics is nevertheless finding support and appreciation.

Certain sections believe that learning analytics is a complete solution to teaching and can totally change the way education is imparted, this is not true. It is important to note that learning analytics is only a supportive tool to assist in teaching. It also provides an analysis on the impact of – teaching, student-teacher interactions and other aspects of learning.

Learning analytics cannot replace a good teacher and his/her teaching in any manner. It rather, helps teachers understand aspects such as – student participation and behavior, subject assimilation, student progress, teaching methodology impact, etc.

Learning analytics refers to the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about the progress of learners and the contexts in which learning takes place. It provides more insights into education and learning than current available data can. 

                                                                                                               – JISC, UK Report

Learning Analytics – A few use cases

As far as the number of use cases on learning analytics is concerned, the US, Australia and UK are among the few nations adopting the same. Let’s observe a few such cases –

USA – Identification of at-risk students at New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) 

NYIT has a problem with student retention and had decided to identify at-risk or drop-out students’ cases much earlier to altogether avoid drop-outs. NYIT used learning analytics to assess data on previous student drop-out cases, created dashboards that helped identify major factors such as – grades, performance in major subject, parental contribution to fees, etc. This helped the college identify at-risk students with a higher degree of accuracy.

UK – Predictive Analytics use case at Nottingham Trent University (NTU)

NTU used predictive analytics solutions and rolled-out a Student Dashboard to enhance the overall performance of students. This dashboard helped enhance the engagement between students – tutors and students – staff creating a much desired positive impact among the student community. The University focussed on the aspect of student engagement in various activities and the dashboard provided accurate measure of this helping tutors assist students for the better.

Australia – Enhancing student retention at Edith Cowan University (ECU)

ECU is renowned for its initiatives in the development of higher education. ECU used learning analytics to improvize on its already excellent student retention percentage. It implemented an institution – wide student retention programme to ensure better retention. There was an extensive analysis done to understand the more relevant factors contributing to student drop-out and these factors were worked upon. There was also an analysis done on what factors contributed to higher retention and ECU ensured that these factors were given more prominence.

The above use cases show the several areas in the field of education where learning analytics can play a major role. It is important to note that each University or college has its own concerns to address and knowing these concerns and prioritizing on the more important ones is the right way to adopt learning analytics.

Implementing Learning Analytics

The good news is that most educational institutions already possess a lot of data concerning student performance, behavior, and impact of teaching methods, etc. It is only a matter of segmenting this data, assessing, and analyzing to bring out valuable insights. Implementing analytics tools should not be difficult as far as data availability is concerned for there is enough and more data to be assessed. Implementation of learning analytics will bring about unearthing of a host of information that can support teachers and staff.

Another advantage is that of increased efficiency both in the areas of teaching and learning. While teachers get support in the form of valuable insights into their teaching methods and style, students stand to gain through increased efficiency of learning brought about learning analytics tools.

Learning analytical tools not only assist in the area of teaching but also provide value across other area of activities such as – college administration, department analysis, updating of college library and or knowledge bank, etc.

A survey of vice-chancellors by PA Consulting has revealed that these professionals consider the UK lagging behind in adopting learning analytics and that 60% of them believe that important innovations in student data analytics are primarily taking place in other countries.

The above survey is a proof of the differences in the levels of adoption of learning analytics solutions across countries in the world. Learning analytics has many uses in the area of education but it is important for each college or university to first assess and analyze requirements and then, take a call on how and in what areas to implement learning analytics.

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