“Protect us from Newton’s single vision”: or why is a humanities graduate working in big data?

I'm most of the way through Nate Silver's "The Signal and the Noise: the art and science of prediction" I'm really struck by the fact that as I'm reading, I'm learning new tools and reference points to critique our learning analytics work. It's quite possible that if I'd a background in social sciences, mathematics or computer …

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Weapons of Math Destruction: How big data increases inequality and threatens democracy

Like the last post ('Everybody Lies'), Weapons of Math Destruction is written by a data scientist. However, there is a significant difference between the tone of the two texts. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz is clearly a bright guy, still fascinated with the potential of big data (although make no mistake, he can see the flaws and potential …

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Everybody lies: what the internet can tell us about who we really are

In the UK, 2018 might come to be seen as an important year in our appreciation of just how significantly data is playing a role in our shaping our lives in ways that are surprising, horrifying and certainly without meaningful consent. We can be grateful of the actions of journalists in the Guardian and Channel …

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Should there be a data science equivalent of the Hippocratic oath?

Yes I'm going to follow up with a couple of book reviews, but I think the following taken from Cathy O'Neil's brilliant Weapons of Math Destruction deserves sharing widely. I will remember that I didn't make the world, and it doesn't satisfy my equations. Though I will use models to estimate value, I will not …

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Students in Transition: the challenges of becoming a first year student

I recently wrote a pre-conference workshop for the European First Year Experience Conference called "Arguably the First Year Experience is 109 years old: How up to date are you?"(1) with my colleague Diane Nutt. This post outlines some of theory relevant to anyone seeking to better understand the transitions associated with becoming a first year …

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What is Student Engagement?

Student Engagement drives the learning analytics resource we use. That is, we count students' use of various electronic proxies that are associated with participation on a course. However, before discussing those, I want to explore the concept of student engagement. In the UK there are broadly three definitions of student engagement: Students engaging with the …

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Are We Building Algorithms of Oppression?

How ideological are the algorithms used in learning analytics? At the core of any learning analytics process is the algorithm. Algorithms are just computational lines of code, so they're neutral, objective, unproblematic. Of course we have to take into account the legal GDPR requirements for privacy and destroying old data etc., but surely we don't …

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The HERE Project (2008 – 2011)

Connecting Learning Analytics with earlier work on Student Retention Between 2008 and 2011, we led a small research consortium looking at those factors that caused students to consider leaving early and those factors that helped them to stay for the Higher Education Funding Council/ Paul Hamlyn-funded "What Works? Student Retention and Success"(1) programme. The work …

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