Black Box Thinking – a review and a challenge to universities

This post is a piece of procrastination. And I'm partly writing it because Matthew Syed brilliantly describes a form of procrastination in his excellent book Black Box Thinking, but truthfully I'm just procrastinating because I'm putting off a task that I'm finding difficult. 🙂 The book deserves a better review than this, because I think it's …

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Chaos theory from the perspective of the butterfly: learning analytics and change

In a recent discussion about how we help academics to use learning analytics, a very wise colleague made the point that we need to constantly remind them of the relationship between average engagement and success. This arose during a conversation about the accuracy of each individual alert raised. They can never be 100% accurate and …

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Diagnosing student ‘risk’: categorising learning analytics to prevent early withdrawal

Universities are awash with data about students that could function as early warning signs that a student may need help. These data sources range from the highly personal, for example tutors observing that a student appears to be having a bad day, to the highly systematised, for example automatic early warnings based on a metric …

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Big data/AI: examples of concerning practice unintended consequences

I'm not apocalyptic about the role of big data in society generally and education specifically, but I do feel strongly that we all have a responsibility to stand back and think about how we accept and use technology. The brilliant writer Yuval Noah Harari has written a great piece on the philosophical challenges of what …

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Excellence from Analytics: Panel Discussion at Digifest, 12th March 2019

I have just taken part in a panel discussion at the Jisc Digifest 2019 event. The session was called Excellence from Analytics. I  know that, as a panel, we all worried about whether we'd been informative (or excellent), but I found it really interesting to listen to the other panellists talk (perhaps not the point). …

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Favourite big data proving nothing story #1 (yes we’re doing shaggy dog stories now)

A few years ago a colleague attended an event with a company of data specialists. The company was experimenting with personalised learning for professionals. As I understand it they had lots of interesting ideas about personalising online learning. For example, if you got an answer wrong about marketing, you'd be routed to an easier set …

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Submission to the All-Party Group on Data Ethics

In November 2018, the UK Parliamentary All Party Group on Data Ethics launched a call for evidence about the use of data and machine learning in four areas: Education Healthcare Autonomous vehicles Policing With the help of some excellent colleagues, I submitted a paper on behalf of the institution (Nottingham Trent University) outlining our great …

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