Tag Archives: learning analytics

Visionary – Weeknote #260 – 23rd February 2024

I have been working on a series of visions about how universities could be working differently in the future. The aim of the visions is not to predict a future, but to provide an insight into a possible view of what that future could look like and think about how these impact on your current position and thinking. We did something similar for Learning and Teaching Reimagined, and though I wasn’t personally credited with the authorship of some of the visions, I did create and write the visions. I tested them out with a few people and got the reaction I wanted as well as stimulating an interesting discussion.

One of those visions was about organisations merging. Coincidently in the news this week was the news that City, University of London and St George’s, University of London have agreed a merger – the new institution will be called City St George’s, University of London and commence operations from 1 August, “though full integration will take longer.” Current City president Anthony Finkelstein will lead the combined institution.

There has been much talk about the four day week, in the Guardian this week was an article on how some firms have made their four day week trials permanent.

Most of the UK companies that took part in the world’s biggest ever four-day working week trial have made the policy permanent, research shows.

Reports from more than half the pilot organisations said that the trial, in which staff worked 100% of their output in 80% of their time, had a positive impact.

For 82% this included positive effects on staff wellbeing, 50% found it reduced staff turnover, while 32% said it improved job recruitment. Nearly half (46%) said working and productivity improved.

TASO published a new report: Using learning analytics to prompt student support interventions.

How can learning analytics – data systems that help understand student engagement and learning – be used to identify students who may be at risk of withdrawing from their studies, or failing their courses, and what interventions work to re-engage students in their studies?

The key findings from the report were:

  • Neither HEP found a measurable difference in post-intervention engagement rating between at-risk students who received an email followed by a support phone call and at-risk students who received only the email.
  • Neither HEP found any significant impact of the additional support call on the likelihood of a student generating additional at-risk alerts.
  • Qualitative feedback indicated that students welcomed the intervention. For some, the phone call was appreciated as a means of breaking down barriers between themselves and the institution and stimulating their re-engagement with learning. For others, the email alone was cited as a sufficient motivator to re-engage with learning.

There was an article on Wonkhe on the report.

A new study from TASO seeks to judge “what works” in the use of learning analytics for student support, exploring whether students identified by engagement data as being “at risk” were better supported by email and phone contact or email alone. Large cohorts of students at two providers, Sheffield Hallam University and Nottingham Trent University, were divided into two random groups. In both cases, it was found that an additional support call created no measurable difference in at-risk students’ subsequent engagement and no appreciable change in the likelihood of the student generating subsequent alerts.

It will be crucial to robustly test the impact of any wellbeing interventions that analytics systems may trigger.

As many people already well known, the environmental costs of generative AI is soaring, and that also being kept mostly secret. In Nature is an article about the impact AI will have on energy systems.

Last month, OpenAI chief executive Sam Altman finally admitted what researchers have been saying for years — that the artificial intelligence (AI) industry is heading for an energy crisis. It’s an unusual admission. At the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Altman warned that the next wave of generative AI systems will consume vastly more power than expected, and that energy systems will struggle to cope.

Spent some time planning out Senior Education and Student Experience Group meeting for March.

Wrote a briefing update on the work I have been doing on the optimisation of operations and data work.

Had an interesting and informative conversation with a college about their smart campus aspirations.

Spent time planning next steps of my Intelligent Campus work.

Planning a meeting with an university for a follow up workshop on their smart campus planning, after successful workshop in January and their request for a 1-2 day cross university workshop.

Worked on creating and planning blog ideas in the personalisation space. Also worked on creating and planning senior management primer ideas in the personalisation space, and some use case ideas.

Spent time planning out ideas for Spaces events over the next 12 months.

Noted that this worknote represents five years of undertaking worknotes for the blog.

In Dublin’s fair city – Weeknote #185 – 16th September 2022

Famine sculpture
Famine by James Clay

Well, a week like no other.

I spent Monday having internal meetings discussing various things. One meeting was how our Directorate could communicate more effectively what we do, with the rest of the business on our intranet. I do think that often people assume that others in an organisation know and understand what other parts of the organisation do. Of course, when you are immersed and close to what you and your team do, it can be easy to assume that others are also just as clear about your role and the work of your team. Most times they’re not. I am thinking about how I can communication the work I do, to the rest of the organisation. In some ways these week notes do that in one way.

Another meeting was about setting some priorities in the public affairs space. With all the changes that are taking place in Government, it can be dynamic and changing landscape. A new prime minister, a new secretary of state and new ministers; does mean making new connections and new relationships. It is also very likely that there will be no policies as well.

I spent time on Tuesday preparing for a presentation that I was delivering in Dublin. It did involve reviewing existing presentations and documentation; as well as designing and producing a presentation.

I flew out to Dublin on Wednesday.

Dublin Airport
Dublin Airport by James Clay

I have been to Dublin four times before. I was there in August 1998 when I was on a day trip, we were camping in Pembrokeshire and caught the ferry to Rosslare and then the train to Dublin. I do remember going on an open top bus, and then visiting the Guinness museum.

When I went to Edtech 2020 in Athlone, caught a flight to Dublin. Before catching the train to Athlone I did explore some of Dublin. Didn’t have a huge amount of time back then.

I went to MoodleMoot 2012, which was in Dublin, however I never go further than the conference hotel which was next to the airport.

My last visit to Dublin was in 2016, where I was keynoting at LiLAC 2016. I saw many different parts of Dublin on that visit. Mainly as I was out at University College Dublin and staying at the St. Helen’s Hotel which was quite far south of Dublin. We did have a nice conference dinner at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. However I did not make it into the city centre on that visit.

So arriving in Dublin and catching a bus to the hotel, I did have time before the dinner in the evening to explore the heart of Dublin.

In the evening I was at a dinner with the HEAnet Advisory Group.

On Thursday I was attending and presenting at the HEAnet Advisory Group.

After a presentation on the strategic direction of HEAnet and EduCampus, we had a presentation from Dr Orla Flynn, President of Atlantic Technological University (ATU), called Digital transformation from the perspective of institutional leader. ATU is a multi-campus technological university in the west and northwest of Ireland that delivers a rich combination of academic and research excellence. It covers a wide area, over 37% of the geographical area of Ireland. It was a really interesting talk and the issues of digital transformation echoed many of the experiences I have heard about in the UK.

I delivered my presentation, Digital transformation: Analytics to support student experience and success; a perspective on good practice in UK HEIs, to the group was well received and opened possibilities for further collaboration, provision of services, consultancy, as well as invites to institutions to share UK experiences and practices.

My presentation focused on what Jisc is doing in the learning analytics space, and then the core requirements that UK HEIs need to address in delivering in this space. I also covered some of the core challenges and issues that UK HEIs face, such as privacy and ethics.

After an interesting workshop on digital transformation, and a lunch,

Dublin GPO
Dublin GPO

I had some time before my flight back to Bristol. What I didn’t realise, until I was pass security, was that my flight was delayed, so I had to wait in Dublin Airport for over five hours. This was exhausting.

I think next time I will catch the boat.

The energy crisis is starting to impact on educational providers. One college is moving to a four day week to reduce energy costs. This is something I have been discussing with colleagues.

With the energy crisis, what is the potential impact of shorter weeks on education, also enery blackouts. How do you deliver digital and online learning when the students lack connectivity or power. Something I think I will write about in the next few weeks.

I had an interesting meeting on the original background to the history of HE thought leadership at Jisc over the last two years and where we are, and the current situation. It was agreed that past work using the term thought leadership wasn’t what thought leadership is, using the accepted term for Thought Leadership, but was much more about inspiring transformative content. This is the start of a conversation about where Jisc goes next in this space.

My top tweet this week was this one.

A highly statistically significant correlation exists between stork populations and human birth rates across Europe – Weeknote #85 – 16th October 2020

I have been working on some internal documents this week which has taken up quite some time.

I read David Kernohan’s piece, What is it about small areas with large numbers of Covid-19 cases? On Wonkhe.

A glance at the Wonkhe dashboards would suggest this is a reasonable conclusion to draw – there are no Mid-level Super Output Areas (MSOA) in England with more than 100 Covid-19 cases in the last 7 days that have less than 2,000 students in residence. As you have probably come to expect, things are a bit more complicated than that.

David points out that blaming students for the rise in covid-19 isn’t just not helpful, but also isn’t accurate.

Universities were suffering again from negative press, saying they shouldn’t have opened. However they weren’t given much choice and on top of that in the most recent restrictions, even at the highest tier, universities are expected to remain open. What does open mean anymore? When we had the full lockdown back in March, yes students were sent home, however universities remained open, their campus may have been shut down, but research was still happening, teaching was going ahead and many students were learning.

Universities can remain open, but doesn’t mean the campus has to be open. Maybe the government should have listened to the advice from their own SAGE scientists who said three weeks ago that “all university and college teaching to be online unless face-to-face teaching is absolutely essential.” If that advice had been followed maybe, many of those covid-19 infection hotspots could have been avoided.

What we do know is that many universities are moving to online delivery curriculum models and for many students self isolation is part of the student experience.

There was substantial press coverage about feeding the isolated students as well.

Universities are facing anger from students over conditions some have faced while self-isolating in campus accommodation. Students have criticised the cost and quality of food provided to them by universities while in isolation. Undergraduates say food parcels have often been filled with “junk”, meaning they have had to request fresh fruit and vegetables from parents.

By the end of the week we were starting to see concern not just about returning home for Christmas, but also if students would return in January.

Apple announced their new iPhone, didn’t watch the announcement and though it would be nice, I don’t think I will be getting one.

Wired published a somewhat sensational article on, as they said, Universities are using surveillance software to spy on students.

Screwed over by the A-levels algorithm, new university students are being hit by another kind of techno dystopia. Locked in their accommodation – some with no means of escape – students are now being monitored, with tracking software keeping tabs on what lectures they attend, what reading materials they download and what books they take out of the library.

Libraries have always taken note of who takes what books out of the library, that was an essential part of the system, so you know what’s been taken out and by whom, so you can track it down if necessary.

Of course analytics means that if you start analysing that data you can start to discover new insights, on how people are using books from the library. Throw in more data and you can start to discover what the story is with different cohorts and subjects.

As with any data collection and analysis there are issues and I sent this missive to a mailing list in response to a question on this issue.

A highly statistically significant correlation exists between stork populations and human birth rates across Europe.

One of the challenges with interpretation of data is that it is a difficult thing to do. You can look at data and have a view, which may not actually be true. When I was working on the Jisc Digital Capability project, one of the core issues that I discussed with colleagues in universities was data capability, having an understanding of what the data was telling them, what was the narrative behind the data. Data is only part of the story. Though talking about analytics the implications of data from VLE systems is just as relevant, so would recommend looking at the Jisc code of practice on analytics.

On Thursday evening Twitter stopped working for me… well what was I going to do now!

Earlier in the day we had a meeting with the Data and Analytics directorate to hear about their future plans.

My top tweet this week was this one.

U-turning – Weeknote #77 – 21st August 2020

Cineworld

Made my first visit to a cinema at the weekend, which was nice, I went to see The Empire Strikes Back which was amazing to see on the big screen, I never saw this at the cinema in 1980, so it was nice to see it where it was meant to be seen.

Also over the weekend we saw more articles on what the future of university will be when the new term starts this autumn. A couple caught my eye, including this one from the BBC News: What will university be like for freshers this year?

But what will the university experience be like for “freshers” at what should be one of the most exciting times of their lives? Swansea University said plans to keep students safe include “bubbles” among flatmates, which means a ban on parties or having people over to stay.

The student experience this year will not be like it was last year. I still think one of the challenges will be the potential chance of a second wave of infection and another full lockdown, but the more likely challenge will be a local lockdown. Universities will need to plan for that kind of eventuality, these local lockdowns are likely to be weeks rather than months. Will courses have the flexibility to be able to respond and change as the local situation changes? That kind of planning is challenging enough with the added challenge of planning a curriculum that needs to take the requirements of preventing the spread of the coronavirus through bubbles and social distancing. As discussed before the real challenge is the uncertainty out there.

And if that wasn’t enough to think about, on Monday the debacle about the A Level results continued to rumble on.

Pressure is mounting on ministers to let teacher-assessed grades stand in England to avoid a second wave of exams chaos hitting GCSE results this week.

Continue reading U-turning – Weeknote #77 – 21st August 2020

Learning Analytics and Ethics

So what are some of the key issues and challenges when it comes to learning analytics and ethics in higher education.

This was the challenge I was set for a presentation at the University of Hertfordshire Teaching and Learning Conference on the 10th July.

When this was originally planned I was going to travel over to Hatfield and deliver the presentation in person, however with the Covid-19 pandemic, it was soon apparent that this wasn’t going to happen. The conference was going to go ahead, but using Teams, and presenters such as myself would deliver their presentations online.

I have done this a fair few times, so I know what to expect, however it’s still a little weird delivering a presentation in front of my PowerPoint slides and not seeing the audience, nor any kind of audience reaction. At the end their were a fair few questions in the chat pane, so got to answer more questions than I would at a face to face event.

I didn’t really know initially how it went down, but there was some positive feedback on the Twitter. Continue reading Learning Analytics and Ethics

What have I been doing? – Weeknote #72 – 17th July 2020

Last Friday I delivered a presentation at the University of Hertfordshire Teaching & Learning Conference. There was some really nice feedback from delegates at the conference.

Really hard to gauge feedback when delivering via Teams and all I can see is my Powerpoint presentation screen. Twitter at least gives me some insight to how it was received.

It would appear that my blog post on the main Jisc website was picked up by academics at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.  Continue reading What have I been doing? – Weeknote #72 – 17th July 2020

Communicating with impact – Weeknote #71 – 10th July 2020

Early in the week I was preparing for my presentation on Friday, as well as working on some more future vignettes.

I spent two days this week doing CPD on “communicating with impact”. Though I have spent over twenty five years presenting, I still think there are things you can learn and unlearn as well.

conference
Image by Florian Pircher from Pixabay

Jisc made the news having helped UK universities comply with China internet limits for their international students who are unable or unwilling to travel to the UK.

UK universities are testing a new online teaching link for students in China – which will require course materials to comply with Chinese restrictions on the internet.

The pilot project involves four Russell Group universities – King’s College London, Queen Mary University of London, York and Southampton – and is run by JISC, formerly the Joint Information Systems Committee, which provides digital services for UK universities.

BBC hasn’t quite caught up that JISC is now Jisc.

Despite hearing some anecdotal evidence to the contrary, it was interesting to read in the Guardian that  UK universities receive record number of applications in lockdown.

A record 40.5% of all 18-year-olds in the UK have applied to go to university, with numbers rising significantly during lockdown, according to the university admissions service UCAS.

We are seeing a political shift in how central Government view the university sector.

Government to scrap 50% of young to university target

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is to scrap a commitment to get 50% of England’s young people into university, which was reached for the first time last year.

He is also promising a German-style further education system with a focus on higher technical qualifications.

Tony Blair set the target over 20 years ago to boost social mobility.

University campus
Image by Quinn Kampschroer from Pixabay

Friday I delivered a presentation at the University of Hertfordshire Teaching & Learning Conference. Originally when planned I would have travelled over to Hatfield to deliver the conference in person. With everything that has happened since March, I did my presentation via Teams. My presentation was on learning analytics and ethics.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Will Curriculum Analytics merge with Learning Analytics? 

At the recent Jisc Learning Analytics Community Event at Newman University in Birmingham I was a last minute addition to a panel discussing some topics in analytics. One question that was offered, was, will Curriculum Analytics merge with Learning Analytics?

A simple answer is yes.

Learning Analytics can be defined as “the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs.”

In the same context then Curriculum Analytics could be defined as “the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about the curriculum and the context, for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs.”

We might need to think how we define curriculum, but if you think of learning analytics as one side of learning, then curriculum analytics is the other.

Understanding that data may tell us a narrative about a learner, then without the data on the curriculum side, means that the whole picture isn’t clear. Not that data will ever likely to provide the whole picture.

If we think of curriculum as the design of the course, the activities undertaken, the subjects covered and how the learning is delivered.

Trying to figure out what this looks like from a data perspective is challenging.

Take something as simple as the lecture, that should be easy to define? Well…

What is a lecture? How long is a lecture? How many people are in that lecture? Where is the lecture? What time is the lecture? Where does that lecture fit into the day, the week, the semester? Is it in the first year of the degree course or later in the course?

We call many things a lecture, but for some people it will be a monologue, for some it will involve going through equations and proofs on a series of blackboard and for others it will not be just talking, but will include interactivity and engagement with the students. We know lectures vary across disciplines as well.

Group working
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

So if we find it challenging to define what at first appearances is a “simple” lecture then you can start to understand the challenges of defining the curriculum overall, such as tutorials, seminars, group work, labs, field work and so on…

Throw in digital as well, that adds another layer of complexity, is a webinar a lecture, what about lecture capture in all that as well.

Then could we incorporate self-study into the mix? Could we ever define informal learning in a curriculum analytics system?

So, will Curriculum Analytics merge with Learning Analytics?

The simple answer is yes, but it isn’t as easy as it may first appear.

Asssessing – Weeknote #50 – 14th February 2020

Monday I was off to Bristol, for a late afternoon meeting. It was nice to be back in the office and see the changes and improvements since I was last there a week or so back. It is a nice place to work.

Monday saw the publication of Jisc’s report on assessment.

This report is the result of an experts meeting exploring assessment in universities and colleges and how technology could be used to help address some of the problems and opportunities.

This report was widely reported in the press across the UK.

Assessment is a challenge for many institutions, often resulting in attempts to fix it, but sometimes I think we need to dig deeper and re-imagine assessment as a whole.

Having discussed the coronavirus in last week’s weeknote, the situation has been escalated and the Department of Health has described the coronavirus as a “serious and imminent threat” to public health.

It comes as the government announced new powers to keep people in quarantine to stop the spread of the virus.

In order to do this the Department of Health has described the coronavirus as a “serious and imminent threat” to public health.

The overall risk level to the UK remains “moderate”.

Wednesday I was at the 18th Jisc Learning Analytics Community Event at Newman University in Birmingham. There were various talks and discussions and overall it was an interesting day.

I published a blog post about the ALT Learning Spaces SIG that happened last month.

Could we build a treehouse?

The post was liked by people.

Thursday I was in our Bristol office working on a document with colleagues. I had quite a few conversations about the Education 4.0 roadmap I am working on and how the sector needs to start thinking and preparing for both the challenges, but also the opportunities that there is with this potential view of the future.

Friday I was on leave for my son’s graduation.

My top tweet this week was this one.

The bells, the bells… – Weeknote #34 – 25th October 2019

Wedding Car by James Clay

I spent the weekend at a family wedding down in Sussex and I got my first taste of campanology, when I was asked to ring the bell in the church at the end of the wedding service, why I was asked I have no idea, but my family now have an amusing video of me being pulled up and down by the bell rope! The wedding was lovely and we had a great time.

Nine years ago on the 19th October 2010 I took this photograph of one of the offices in the college I was working in.

Office space

We had been having a lot of discussions about desks and offices. One particular group of staff were adamant they needed their own desks to work on and that they didn’t want their space changed.

What you should notice from the photograph above was that though everyone had their own desk, what they were actually using them was for, was storage. No one was really using their desks for working at. The result was a room which was not conducive to working, so no one worked in there. No one could find anything… well some could.

I remember having discussions about replacing the space with fewer desks, more storage and some nicer seating and comfortable areas. The reaction was (as expected) no, I need my own desk.

The staff in this office spent the majority of their working week teaching in classrooms, when they were not teaching, they wanted space to mark and prepare, research as well as somewhere to relax, drink coffee and discuss stuff with colleagues. They also needed space to store materials and resources, as well as student work. Their needs were being overshadowed by the need for their own space, a space they could call their own.

For me the key lesson here was that people didn’t think about the space in the context of what they needed to do in that space, but more about having a space to call their own. In terms of space planning you do need to balance those things out. Continue reading The bells, the bells… – Weeknote #34 – 25th October 2019