I think the increased attention for learning analytics is valid. A lot of learning and teaching taking place today takes place in digital environments. It is implemented more structurally, which means patterns of behavior may have more meaning as they have increased context. Yes we should be leveraging the vast amount of data to better tailor education. But unless I missed something, I am afraid this year’s Horizon Report focusses heavily on what the educational institute can do with the data, and what the teachers can do with the data, and less so (or not at all) on what the students can do with the data.
“learning analytics refers to the interpretation of a wide range of data produced by and gathered on behalf of students in order to assess academic progress, predict future performance, and spot potential issues. […] and to tailor education to individual students more effectively.”
Source: NMC Horizon Report: 2012 Higher Education Edition, pg 22
Is it only me, do I have an unusual sensitivity to peer pressure? Maybe, but I get very excited when I imagine an online learning environment which tells me, how I score on my digital diagnostic test compared to my peers, how many students have preceded me in downloading the optional reading I just downloaded, and based on my downloading habits and diagnostic tests, what my estimated end grade will be compared to the average. Okay, the latter possibly goes too far, but this is the core of what I find exciting about learning analytics. What information can we give back to the student, in a social context, so s/he can gauge their performance related to the group, and their own standards, and take action based on that information.
We are moving away from a top-down, hierarchical, vertical world, to a flat networked world where monologues are replaced by dialogues, and personalized products (mix your own breakfast muesli here!) Why would we be focusing on using learning analytics only to “tailor education” in a top-down fashion more effectively? What could we come up with if we gave the data back to the student who generated it, presented it in the context of the group (the social element) and let them decide what they want to do with it. From the “leaning back” type of learning to “leaning forward” as I heard today from a very inspiring speaker, Wim Veen! Give them the information so that they can adapt their behavior, improve their study habits, feel accomplished when they score well, or decide to skip that party this weekend because all signs say extra studying is needed… supporting the educated, informed, context aware, empowered, social learner… I like!