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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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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