Our University has been really successful at piloting and then implementing learning analytics across the entire institution. However, we’re far from perfect, we have a small team working on the project, our institutional systems were never built with learning analytics in mind and this is genuinely complicated stuff. Consequently:
- We have made mistakes in the past
- We continue to make mistakes now
- We’re going to make mistakes in the future
I’d like to say it’s good to be reminded of this, but it’s uncomfortable. Last week, I attended a really valuable meeting with a group of academics using our learning analytics Dashboard. It wasn’t valuable because they loved what we were doing. It was valuable because there were things wrong with the resource.
This isn’t meant to be self-pitying. I left the meeting deflated, but after some reflection was reminded that these are busy professionals. They have stacks of priorities, learning the subtleties of learning analytics is not one of them.
After four years of working with learning analytics at the University, we moved to a new version and have faced some problems. We have added more data feeds to the algorithm and increased the complexity and sophistication of the core information available. Consequently the tool has struggled to cope. To be completely fair to the vendor, the software problems are not just with them. We’ve also faced a number of problems moving data from one of our systems in a consistent and accurate manner to the Dashboard. Whilst there has been a positive collaborative problem-solving approach from both sides, the truth is that we have spent far too long solving problems. Since September, my team has spent our time looking inwards at the tool, not outwards at the users of the tool.
None of this is important to the end user.
All they have time to care about is: at the point where they are working with a student, does the tool make it easier for them to do their job?
My uncomfortable learning points
- Spend as much time as is practical talking to the end users
- Whatever your comms budget is, double it