I have worked in higher education for 25 years in a range of roles primarily focussed on supporting students to better engage with their studies or reducing barriers to participation. Since 2013, I have focussed on how institutions might use learning analytics to provide early warnings and support for students. In my substantive role, I am responsible for the development of learning analytics at Nottingham Trent University, through our work with our technology partner Solutionpath building the NTU Student Dashboard using their StREAM technology. However, until mid-2023, I am working on a secondment to look at how we engage students better through policy and good pedagogic practice.
Part of the reason for this institutionally-agnostic site is that some of the findings I want to share are developed through research on external projects. For example we have recently ended an Erasmus+ funded project with two partners Arteveldehogeschool and UMC Utrecht on the Onwards from Learning Analytics (OfLA) to understand the nature of what happens once a learning analytics system has identified that a student may be at risk or need additional support. This project builds on the developments from the ABLE Erasmus+ project with our partners in KU Leuven and U Leiden (2015-2018) and the STELA Project as more junior partners alongside KU Leuven, TU Delft, TU Graz and SEFI.
I am not a data scientist or statistician, but a humanities graduate who has worked in an education setting. My role is not about fixing algorithms, but asking questions about how people can best use the technology to support student success.
This blog is intended to be a place to upload quick though pieces, reflections on learning analytics discourse and highlight events or new research.
Head of Student Engagement & Analytics
Centre for Student & Community Engagement, Nottingham Trent University
I am responsible for integrating learning analytics into the University to support student success. I least a team who manage the systems issues and conduct research into the effective integration of learning analytics. Our key themes include:
- Solving the problem of sharing student data appropriately and ethically
- Understanding the role of data in advice giving and changing student behaviour
2014 – 2019 – Student Engagement Manager, Nottingham Trent University
Responsible for delivering the Student Dashboard learning analytics resource across the whole institution including stable operations, research, communications and staff development. Lead the ABLE Erasmus+ research project into using learning analytics to support student transition into the first year.
2002 – 2014 – Study Support Coordinator, Nottingham Trent University
Led a team of four learning developers and ten student academic mentors to deliver a range of study support workshops and one to one sessions. Led the implementation of a large institutional Welcome Week programme designed to improve the quality of the initial university experience. Led a research consortium (the HERE Project) investigating strategies for improving student retention.
1996-2002 – Various Student Development roles Nottingham Trent University Students’ Union
1994-1996 – Enterprise Assistant, De Montfort University
1993-1994 – President, De Montfort University Students’ Union
1998 – 2000 – Postgraduate Diploma in Training Management, Nottingham Trent University
1993 – 1994 – BA (hons) History & English, De Montfort University
Book chapters & peer reviewed articles
- Foster E., Siddle R., Crowson P., Bonne P. (2020) It’s All About the Intervention: Reflections on Building Staff Capacity for Using Learning Analytics to Support Student Success. In: Ifenthaler D., Gibson D. (eds) Adoption of Data Analytics in Higher Education Learning and Teaching. Advances in Analytics for Learning and Teaching. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-47392-1_13
Foster, E., & Siddle, R., (2020) The effectiveness of learning analytics for identifying at-risk students in higher education, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 45:6, 842-854, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2019.1682118
LAWTHER, S., and FOSTER, E., 2016., Developing a Sense of Belonging: what is it that helps students feel that they ‘fit in’ on their course? In: BONNE, P. and NUTT, D., eds., Ten Times the First Year: reflections on ten years of the European First Year Experience Conference, Tielt: Lannoo Campus
LAWTHER, S., FOSTER, E., MUTTON, J. and KERRIGAN, M., 2015., Can the use of learning analytics encourage positive student behaviours? In: G. JANES, D. NUTT and P. TAYLOR, eds., Student behaviour in HE: co-creating positive learning cultures. UK: SEDA
FOSTER, E., BORG, M., DR., LAWTHER, S., MCNEIL, J. and KENNEDY, E., DR., 2014. Using Student Engagement Research to Improve the First Year Experience at a UK University. In: C. BRYSON, ed., Student Engagement in Challenging Times. UK: Routledge.
FOSTER, E. and SOUTHWELL-SANDER, J., 2014. The NTSU Outstanding Teaching Awards – Student Perspectives on Engagement. In: C. BRYSON, ed., Student Engagement in Challenging Times. UK: Routledge.
FOSTER, E., MCNEIL, J. and LAWTHER, S., 2012. Exploring new students’ conceptions of engagement and feedback. In: L. CLOUDER, C. BROUGHAN, S. JEWELL and G. STEVENTON, eds., Improving Student Engagement and Development through Assessment: Theory and Practice in Higher Education. UK: Routledge.
FOSTER, E., LAWTHER, S., LEFEVER, R., BATES, N., KEENAN, C. and COLLEY, B., 2012. HERE to stay? An exploration of student doubting, engagement and retention in three UK universities. In: I. SOLOMONIDES, A. REID and P. PETOCZ, eds., Engaging with Learning in Higher Education. UK: Libri Publishing, pp. 95-114.
FOSTER, E., LAWTHER, S., HARDY, C., KIRBY, R. and MOLINEAUX, P., 2012. Nottingham Trent University’s Welcome Week: a sustained programme to improve early social and academic transition for new students In: J. ANDREWS, R. CLARK and L. THOMAS, eds., Compendium of effective practice in higher education retention and success UK: Aston University & the Higher Education Academy, pp. 27-31.
FOSTER, E., LAWTHER, S. and MCNEIL, J., 2011. Learning Developers Supporting Early Student Transition. In: P. HARTLEY, J. HILSDON, C. KEENAN, S. SINFIELD and M. VERITY, eds., Learning Development in Higher Education. Great Britain: Palgrave Macmillan.
FOSTER, E. and LEFEVER, R., 2011. Barriers and strategies for retaining male students. In: L. THOMAS and J. BERRY, eds., Male access & success in Higher Education: a discussion paper. York: Higher Education Academy, pp. 20-25.
PURNELL, S. and FOSTER, E., 2008. Transition and Engagement. In: L. HAND and C. BRYSON, eds., Student Engagement: SEDA Special 22. United Kingdom: Staff & Educational Development Association.
FOSTER, E., 2005, Should I stay or should I go? An analysis of student early withdrawal from higher education, In Innovation 2005, Learning & Teaching Journal, Assessment Edition, Issue 7, pp. 5-30
LOCKLEY, E., PRITCHARD, C. & FOSTER, E., 2004. Students supporting students – lessons learnt from an environmental health peer support scheme, Journal of Environmental Health Research, Vol 2(3), pp.78-82
Universities are using the latest technology to understand why so many students are dropping out (inews, 11th October 2019)
Teaching intelligence: how to use learning analytics (THE, 15th November 2018)
Should universities monitor student library use? (THE, 8th September, 2016)
How universities are using data to stop students dropping out (The Guardian, 30th June 2015)
Are we really all back on campus? (WonkHE, 25th November, 2021)
Can learning analytics warn us early on mental health? (WonkHE, 7th July 2019)
HEi-think: Don’t bolt on new technology and expect it to improve learning (MediaFHE, February 2017)
Giving students power over their learning data (Efficiency Exchange, 21 November, 2016)
HEi-think: Learning analytics can transform the student experience (MediaFHE, February 2016
HEi-think: Learning analytics can transform the student experience (MediaFHE, February 2016
What’s the right tool for reading the future? (LACE Blog, 4th November, 2015)
Contributions to Reports
Gravity assist: propelling higher education towards a brighter future (Office for Students, March 2021)
Trust, Transparency and Technology: Building Data Policies for the Public Good (All Party Group on Data Ethics, May 2019)
Realising the potential of technology in education: A strategy for education providers and the technology industry to help improve and increase the effective use of technology in education (Department for Education, 3 April 2019)
HEi-know Good Practice Briefing 07 (Nottingham Trent University section) (MediaFHE, 4th March 2019)
Using Learning Analytics to Support the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, (National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 2017)
Report: From Bricks to Clicks – The Potential of Data and Analytics in Higher Education (Policy Connect, 26th January 2016)
RAVEN, N., et al., 2014. Young people’s perceptions about post-18 education and training options – commentaries. UK, Universities and Colleges Union.
KEENAN, C., FOSTER, E. and LAWTHER, S., 2012. Stemming the doubts: enhanced transition and induction to HE STEM programmes. Birmingham: National HE STEM programme.
FOSTER, E., LAWTHER, S., KEENAN, C., BATES, N., COLLEY, B. and LEFEVER, R., 2012. The HERE Project Final Report.
FOSTER, E., LAWTHER, S., KEENAN, C., BATES, N., COLLEY, B. and LEFEVER, R., 2012. The HERE Project toolkit & recipe cards.
FOSTER, E. and BRITTAIN, M., 2010. Flying Start End of Project Report: Shadowing at NTU.
Sample of conference papers and presentations
SIDDLE, R, & FOSTER, E., 2020. Considerations for amending a whole-institution early-alert system, LAK20: Celebrating 10 years of LAK: Shaping the future of the field, Frankfurt (online) March 23-27, pp 33-36
FOSTER, E., SIDDLE, R., BONNE, P., 2020. Getting staff ready for learning analytics: preliminary findings from a 3-year project, LAK20: Celebrating 10 years of LAK: Shaping the future of the field, Frankfurt (online) March 23-27, pp 33-36
FOSTER, E., EDWARDS, R., 2018, Implementation of an institution-wide learning analytics dashboard: a case study – Learning Analytics Knowledge 2018 conference, Sydney Australia, 5-9 March 2018
FOSTER, E., 2015. Is it possible to use learning analytics to improve the student experience? Or is it all just a bit too ‘Big Brother’? conference presentation at NUS Strategic Conversation, 11th February 2015, Sheffield, National Union of Students
FOSTER, E., 2014. Using data to improve recruitment and retention, conference presentation at Higher Education Data: Redesigning the information landscape. 12th November 2014, London, Inside Government.
ELANDER, J., FOSTER, E., NORTON, L. and FOXCROFT, A., 2009. What changes in the transition to learning at university? C. RUST, ed. In: Proceedings of the 17th International Symposium, Improving Student Learning for the twenty-first century learner, 7-9 September, 2009, The Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development, pp. 141-156.
FOSTER, E., LEES, M., O’NEILL, W. and LAWTHER, S., 2009. More than “Getting Smashed with Randomers” – Improving Student Induction, European First Year Experience Conference, 13 – 15 May, 2009.
FOSTER, E., BELL, R. and SALZANO, S., 2008. “What’s a Journal?” – Research into the Prior Learning Experiences of Students Entering Higher Education, European First Year Experience Conference, 7 – 9 May 2008.
LIGGETT, A., MCNEIL, J. & FOSTER, E. 2005, Developing student academic writing practice online: the writing menagerie, European Association for the Teaching of Academic Writing Conference Proceedings, 22-24 June 2005
FOSTER, E., LIGGETT, A. & MCNEIL, J., 2004. Grammar Beagles: Re-examining online objective grammar testing for higher education, conference proceedings at Writing Development in Higher Education, Valuing and Evaluating Writing in HE 11-12 May 2004 Sheffield