This Week in Learning Analytics (October 11 – October 17, 2014)


Personified Potted Plant Pic | Photograph by Timothy D. Harfield

Latest News

10 October 2014
Online and In Control: Emerging Adaptive Software Puts Faculty Members in Charge of Course Creation
Smart Sparrow, a company that produces customizable adaptive platforms, is one of seven finalists for a $20 Million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop personalized digital courseware. Smart Sparrow has worked recently with Ariel Anbar (Arizona State University) to develop a course called Habitable Worlds, which is about space exploration, climate science, and the search for life beyond earth. Unlike other adaptive learning platforms, which cause concern by seeking to make the teacher superfluous, Smart Sparrow demonstrates that it is possible to create a flexible environment that instructors can use to implement personal visions. [Read more]

10 October 2014
Ed. Data-Mining Research Effort Wins Federal Grant, Raises Privacy Questions
The National Science Foundation recently awarded a $4.8 million grant to a coalition of research universities, led by Carnegie Mellon University. “LearnSphere” will produce a data sharing infrastructure between institutions, and including third-party vendors. Although the infrastructure promises to improve predictive analytics and adaptive learning capabilities, it was also alarmed student privacy advocates, who insist that LearnSphere should be further evaluated before moving forward. [Read more]

13 October 2014
National Study Quantifies Learning Benefits for Students Using Compass Learning® Solutions
Compass Learning, a leader in learning acceleration, released the results of a national study conducted to determine the extent to which the company’s software solutions power student learning. The results conclude that students who used Compass Learning software in the 2013-14 school year were 2.3 times more likely to accelerate academically when compared with their peers, who received regular classroom instruction without the software. In addition, students who used the software grew nearly twice as much as students who did not use the software. [Read more]

14 October 2014
Successful Scandinavian seminar on learning analytics in schools
Jan Hylen provides a summary of events from the one-day seminar on learning analytics organized by LACE, Skolverket, and the Norwegian Centre for ICT in Education. [Read more]

Latest Blogs

Look who’s data mining your toddlers by Michelle Malkin
Malkin expresses concern about the profit motives of private companies as they seek to datify more and more of student lives. With special attention to TS Gold, Malkin points to an increase in testing burden placed on teachers and argues that the real benefit of big data collections is not for students, parents, or schools, but for large EdTech companies interested in selling customized learning products.

Keeping Up With… Learning Analytics by Steven J. Bell
Bell weighs the pros and cons of learning analytics, and suggests that educational data be used only to the extent that student data privacy is maximally protected

Why Wearables Are the New Gateways to Human Knowledge by Toni Fuhrman
Interview with Emory Craig (The College of New Rochelle) and Maya Georgieva (New York University’s Stern School of Business) about the future of wearable technologies in the classroom. Craig views wearables and learning analytics as complementarily symptomatic of the progressive move toward personalization. Absent, however, is any comment on the extent to which universities will have the ability to track wearable technology use. Regardless, the biggest challenge facing institutions right now is the ability to support the expanding constellation of such devices.

Using Data to Improve Student Success by Paul Prinsloo
A reprint of a post originally published in World University News. Prinsloo summarizes the state of learning analytics in South African Universities, through a review of various strategies being employed, specific projects, and efforts to ensure that student data are used ethically and transparently.

The Benefits of Learning Analytics by Rebecca Glasgow
Glasgow describes how she uses the built-in analytics found in Google Blogger (including page views, geolocation data, and page referrals) to assess engagement within a distributed online learning environment.

Embracing the chaos of data: Pete Warden on the upside of unstructured data. by Audrey Watters
In conversation with Pete Warden on the quest for perfection through structured data. Structured data is always better, says Warden, but it is in short supply relative to the bounty of unstructured data that surrounds us.

Twitter Archeology of the Learning Analytics Community by Bodong Chen
Fascinating ‘twitter archaeology,’ produced through applying various forms of analysis to twitter archives from past iterations of the Learning Analytics and Knowledge Conference (LAK)

Positivism and Big Data by Stephen Downes
Agreeing with the critique of data science as positivism, Downes disagrees with the the ways in which positivism is understood. Downes argues that an accurate understanding of positivism allows for a more damning criticism of data science: “big data is transforming deeply contextual data into context-free data. Any principles derived from such data are thereby impacted.”

Recent Publications

Group Learning Assessment: Developing a Theory-Informed Analytics
Xing, W; Wadholm, R; Petakovic, E; Goggins, S

Assessment in Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) is an implicit issue, and most assessments are summative in nature. Process-oriented methods of assessment can vary significantly in their indicators and typically only partially address the complexity of group learning. Moreover, the majority of these assessment methods require time-intensive coding of qualitative data. Our study explores the operationalization of activity theory to frame group activity in a CSCL context by breaking group work into six dimensions. We map log data generated by a collaborative software, Virtual Math Teams with Geogebra, with these dimensions and construct six measures. This step lays the groundwork for automating CSCL assessment. Next, we move beyond identification and analysis of those measures to infer group learning using human judgment and employ a clustering algorithm to categorize groups with similar performance, allowing us to consider the six indicators simultaneously and to step further toward assessment automation. Last, in terms of the complexity of group learning in a socio-technical context, we discuss a web-based tool that not only shows group-level assessment but also integrates with our previous work on individual assessment, thus providing teachers with a diverse of group learning.

Where is Research on Massive Open Online Courses Headed? A data analysis of the MOOC Research Initiative
Dragan Gašević, Vitomir Kovanović, Srećko Joksimović, George Siemens

This paper reports on the results of an analysis of the research proposals submitted to
the MOOC Research Initiative (MRI) funded by the Gates Foundation and administered by Athabasca University. The goal of MRI was to mobilize researchers to engage into critical interrogation of MOOCs. The submissions – 266 in Phase 1, out of which 78 were recommended for resubmission in the extended form in Phase 2, and finally, 28 funded – were analyzed by applying conventional and automated content analysis methods as well as citation network analysis methods. The results revealed the main research themes that could form a framework of the future MOOC research: i) student engagement and learning success, ii) MOOC design and curriculum, iii) self – regulated learning and social learning, iv) social network analysis and networked learning, and v) motivation, attitude and success criteria. The theme of social learning received the greatest interest and had the highest success in attracting funding. The submissions that planned on using learning analytics methods were more successful. The use of mixed methods was by far the most popular. Design – based research methods were also suggested commonly, but the questions about their applicability arose regarding the feasibility to perform multiple iterations in the MOOC context and rather a limited focus on technological support for interventions. The submissions were dominated by the researchers from the field of education (75% of the accepted proposals). Not only was this a possible cause of a complete lack of success of the educational technology innovation theme, but it could be a worrying sign of the fragmentation in the research community and the need to increased efforts towards enhancing interdisciplinarity.

Digital Engagement: Driving Student Success
Rosemary Hayes

Poor retention and completion rates symptomize the challenges colleges and universities face in their attempts to meet the needs and aspirations of diverse student populations. Early models of student attrition identified numerous student factors and characteristics that increase the likelihood a student will not complete college (i.e., at-risk characteristics). Institutions have used this information to develop programs and implement technology to target these specific factors and to mitigate risks. The functional units that provide the services and manage the data typically operate within organizational silos, however, with all the complications this separation of efforts can introduce.

Despite the benefits these risk-mitigation programs offer students, they have not significantly improved student retention and completion rates. According to Vincent Tinto and Brian Pusser, this failure indicates that we must rethink our focus on student attributes and examine how the whole organization can better engage in promoting student success. This article explores the problems underlying the college student success challenge, limitations of the current approaches, and a digital engagement strategy that institutions can implement to support improvements in student outcomes.

Calls for Papers / Participation

NEW! Third International Conference on Data Mining & Knowledge Management Process Dubai, UAE | 23-24 January, 2015 (APPLICATION DEADLINE: 31 October 2014)

Learning at Scale 2015 Vancouver, BC (Canada) | 14 – 15 March 2015 (SUBMISSION DEADLINE: 22 October 2014)

2015 Southeast Educational Data Symposium (SEEDS) Emory University (Atlanta, GA) | 20 Feb 2015 (APPLICATION DEADLINE: 14 November 2014)

11th International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative
Learning: “Exploring the material conditions of learning: Opportunities and
challenges for CSCL”
University of Gothenburg, Sweden | 7 – 11 June 2015 (SUBMISSION DEADLINE: 17 November 2014)

28th annual Florida AI Research Symposium (FLAIRS-28) on Intelligent Learning Technologies Hollywood, Florida, USA (SUBMISSION DEADLINE: 17 November 2014)

Upcoming Global Events

20 October 2014
Data, Analytics and Learning: An introduction to the logic and methods of analysis of data to improve teaching and learning

University of Texas Arlington | EdX

Employment Opportunities

Simon Fraser University (Palo Alto, California)
Tenure Track Position In Educational Technology And Learning Design – The Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University ( seeks applications for a tenure-track position in Educational Technology and Learning Design at the Assistant Professor rank beginning September 1, 2015, or earlier. The successful candidate will join an existing complement of faculty engaged in Educational Technology and Learning Design, and will contribute to teaching and graduate student supervision in our vibrant Masters program at our Surrey campus and PhD program at our Burnaby campus. DEADLINE FOR APPLICATION: December 1, 2014

University of Technology, Sydney (Sydney, AUS)
Research Fellow: Data Scientist – We invite applications from highly motivated data scientists wishing to work in a dynamic team, creating tools to provide insight into diverse datasets within the university and beyond. We welcome applicants from diverse backgrounds, although knowledge of educational theory and practice will be highly advantageous. You are a great communicator, bringing expertise in some combination of statistics, data mining, machine learning and visualisation, and a readiness to stretch yourself to new challenges. We are ready to consider academic experience from Masters level to several years’ Post-Doctoral research, as well as candidates who have pursued non-academic, more business-focused tracks. DEADLINE FOR APPLICATION: Posted Until Filled

University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)
Senior Digital Media Specialist – The University of Michigan is seeking a qualified Senior Digital Media Specialist to create digital content in support of online and residential educational experiences for the Office of Digital Education & Innovation (DEI). DEADLINE FOR APPLICATION: Posted Until Filled

NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education,and Human Developments Center for Research on Higher Education Outcomes (USA)
12-month postdoctoral position – available for a qualified and creative individual with interests in postsecondary assessment, learning analytics, data management, and institutional research.The Postdoctoral Fellow will be responsible for promoting the use of institutional data sources and data systems for the purpose of developing institutional assessment tools that can inform decision making and contribute to institutional improvement across New York University (NYU). DEADLINE FOR APPLICATION: Open Until Filled