Introducing learning analytics


Norquist. Photograph available here  Capture creative commons

Based on Learning analytics: drivers, developments and challenges (Ferguson, 2012)

Learning analytics is a new field that has emerged in the last decade with roots in business intelligence, web analytics, educational data mining and recommender systems.

The goals of what can be achieved and how these goals will be achieved still has to be defined.

Learning analytics are different from other related fields of academic analysis and Educational Data Mining (EDM)

There are a number of definitions of learning analytics. The current prevalent definition was set out in a call for papers for the first international Conference on Learning Analytics and Knowledge (LAK2011)

” Learning analytics is 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


There are a number of factors driving the development of learning analytics

  • How business uses analytics to extract value from data sets (big data) to drive recommendation engines, identify patterns of behaviour and develop advertising campaigns
  • Widespread introduction of LMSs is creating larger data sets. This data is being collated but the reporting and visualisation of this has been largely non-existent.
  • Online learning take-up has increased
  • Increasing demand for educational institutions to measure and demonstrate improved performance
  • Emergence of different interest groups; government, educational institutes and teachers/learners

A bit of history

  • 1979: Open University could reflect on 10 years monitoring the progress of distance students course by course
  • 1999: it was slowly becoming clear that collaborative online learning could take place (Dillenbourg, 1999)
  • 2000: EDM (Educational Data Mining) begins to emerge from the analysis of student-computer interaction with a strong emphasis on learning and teaching. In 2007 Romero and Ventura defined the goal of EDM as ‘turning learners into effective better learners’
  • 2001: Second generation web opened up new ways of collecting web content from various sources, processing it and exchanging the results with other programmes (Berners-Lee et al., 2001)
  • In contrast the early use of the term learning analytics referred to business intelligence about e-learning (Mitchell and Costello, 2000)
  • 2003 onwards: socially and pedagogical approaches to analytics began to emerge. Social Network Analysis (SNA) was a significant development. SNA is the investigation of networks and can be used to ‘investigate and promte collaborative and co-operative connections between learners, tutors and resources helping them to extend and develop their capabilities’
  • 2008: Pedagogic theory starts to emerge strongly as an approach to optimising and understanding learning.

Political and economic drivers

Measuring of the quality of education to meet the challenge of declining education standards principally in the USA. ‘Academic analytics’ began to evolve to link data sets with improved educational decision making.

The field is rapidly expanding

In 2008 analytics and EDM split.

Analytical tools are rapidly developing and enabling different types of analysis e.g. LOCO-Analyst which provides feedback focused on the quality of the learning process.

With tools becoming more powerful ethics and privacy issues begin to emerge

In 2010 the field of analytics splits again with learning analytics gradually breaking away from academic analytics. Siemens presented the first early definition in 2010 which was refined and has become the current prevalent definition as described earlier in this blog.

Put simply

  • EDM focused on the technical challenge
  • Learning analytics focused on the educational challenge (optimising opportunities for learning online)
  • Academic analytics focused on the political/educational challenge

Overlaps between them still remain though there have been further attempts to distinguish between them. Long and Siemens (2011)

In 2012 learning analytics were identified as a technology to watch in the NCM Horizon Report.

New tools such as GRAPPLE can now extract data from across an entire PLE

Learning analytics are distinguished by their concern for providing value to learners and employed to optimise both learning from and in the environments which it takes place


Ferguson, R. (2012) ‘Learning analytics: drivers, developments and challenges’, International Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning (IJTEL), vol. 4, nos. 5/6, pp. 304–17; also available online at 36374/ (accessed 6 July 2016).




Learning Analytics Definitions – a look through history

Learning Analytics

A review of definitions in Wikipedia shows how definitions of Learning analytics is developing.

Early definitions focused on Learning Analytics having a clear learner perspective, over time this seems to have developed into a perspective which places the educator at the core of Learning Analytics.

2010 Siemens: LA is the use of intelligent data, learner data and analysis models.


  1. provide learners relevant content resources and social connections
  2. predict learner success
  3. perform necessary interventions

2011 Kozleski: LA is the use of intelligent data, learner data and analysis models


  1. discover information and social connections for predicting and advising people’s learning

2012 Culatta: LA is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts


  1. Understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs

2012 – 2014 Definition remained same

July 2016: LA is the use of intelligent data, learner- produced data and analysis models


  1. to discover information and social connections for predicting and advising people’s learning



The Collaborative Project


Yobie. Collaboration available here  Capture creative commons

I’ve been away from blogging for the last few weeks, totally absorbed by a six week long collaborative online project (Block 3 of H817).

My team and I were tasked with building a resource using Web 2.0 technologies to support reflective practice using a digital diary in a vocational scenario. We followed the Learning Design Studio approach to work individually and collaboratively.

It’s been a difficult but rewarding time and the output is still being assessed so only time will tell how successful we have been in meeting the brief.

For now I feel a sense of relief that I am now on the final leg of my H817 journey – Block 4 Learning Analytics.

Collaborative working – first reflections


Thinker Mirror Reflection by Ted  Capture creative commons

So, here we are at the end of the first two weeks of working collaboratively. It’s been an emotional roller coaster frustration and worry at our (very) late start and elation at finally making some decisions and seeing our website come to life

We are a team of 4 and are working collaboratively through a learning design process with the objective of producing a digital diary for reflective practice to support professional development. We have decided to focus on a diary to support ILM (Institute of Leadership and Management) accreditation.

In the first two weeks we have had to articulate the context, we are not quite there yet but it’s coming together and it is time to reflect on the process.  At this stage we have been tasked with answering three questions;

  1. Your contribution to the group effort of articulating the context.
  2. What you found challenging in this process.
  3. What you have learned from it.

So here goes…………

  1. Your contribution to the group effort of articulating the context.
    I prompted initial thoughts by suggesting 4 possible scenarios for our shared context – all workplace/vocational ranging from student placements to professional qualifications. They were fairly high level but I had stated the educational challenge clearly which became important when we later discussed and agreed our outline context.As project manager I have tried to keep the group on track and initiated and prompted action by
    – setting up the website
    – creating a Gantt chart for the group project
    – setting out agendas for meetings/discussions
    – writing up and distributing action points
    – creating joint documents in a shared work space  (Google Docs)

    I have supported my colleagues by being available to them online and on the telephone as we have worked through creating personas, establishing concerns and issues and distilling the relevant forces.

  2. What you have found challenging in this process?

    Time management
    We all have commitments and lead busy lives and so are available at different times. Using the communication channels we have set up has helped although I constantly feel there is something I should be doing, looking at commenting on.Managing my own emotions
    It is very tempting to look at how the other groups are progressing..and then panic! To help manage these feelings I made the decision during this phase to stay out of other forums and threads and just dip in occasionally to get a sense of where others’ are going and whether we can learn anything from this (yes we can!)

    We started late due to circumstance. At first I worried about this but I feel we have made great progress and our work is coming together.

  3. What have you learned from it?
    I feel we have a strong sense of our shared vision and are very clear who we are designing the digital diary for, this has been essential in keeping us on track.Creating personas has really helped to bring ‘our users’ to life for me as ‘real’ people. Whilst they are all different there are numerous similarities and I think this will help us with the core design of our solution. The differences highlight the real world differences we will experience and how we need to consider these within our design for it to be ‘fit for purpose’ They certainly reflect the different motivations e.g. career progression, accreditation, learning new skills. The unique qualities aspect of the persona is making me reflect on what our design will need to achieve for it to be accepted by our users.

    Reviewing colleagues personas has broadened my thinking about what our design has to ‘do’ and fulfill for our users.

    Having a design space where we work separately but together is useful in that we can present our thoughts without censorship, develop our own thinking as we review everyone’s contributions and the draw joint conclusions from this.

    I am learning to be patient and trust the process.

H817 Open University Weeks 14-15 Activity 8.


A first attempt at using VideoScribe

MOOC VIdeoScribe

Here we go…”write about an element of open education you have found interesting” – hmmm I thought I’d have a go at working out loud again and so I created my first VideoScribe video. It’s very simple and took an age to make but I did it!

You can see it here

Working out loud…………….. for real

Justin McGregor

So, I’ve talked about it enough and at the risk of winning the prevaricator of the year award I am reminding everyone that I talk about this …….alot!

Today is oficially a day of alisantics firsts

  • First Videoscribe ‘movie’
  • First voice over….do I really sound like that or is there a gremlin in the microphone?
  • First upload to YouTube
  • First share on WordPress
  • First real piece of Working out Loud!

Very simple………but as firsts go, very rewarding….after all I am very much ‘work in progress’

Block 2 Activity 25, H817



Blogging – half time reflections

Blog Capture

Jabiz Ralsdana Flickr.

I have enjoyed blogging far more than I had anticipated during the first half of the Open University Masters in Online and Distance Education module. I feel this is because I am producing something tangible with a purpose.

A notable development has been a lack of blogging when the module does not require it – this blog has been ‘silent’ for almost four weeks. Why is that?

  • I’ve been busy writing a 3000 word assignment – excuse or valid reason? We all lead busy lives
  • I deserved some time off after submitting my assignment – time off from what exactly? – do I see blogging as work/a chore?
  • My focus is on the next stage of the module which does not require blogging – do I need a reason to blog?

If I am to continue on my blogging development post this module these questions need serious consideration. John Stepper discusses creating habits and having regular blogging time each day.

I have to decide whether I see blogging as a fundamental part of my development and if so, make a conscious choice to create a blogging habit.

I am still very much work in progress and the jury is out on this one. Watch this space……..

Post script note: I have realised on re-reading this blog that I have an extremely inward focussed perspective here. Finding the image I finally selected to head up this blog has prompted me to consider I just might also be writing for existing friends and friends I have yet to meet….. More food for thought.