Data! Data! Data! What do I think of Learning Analytics

ELI-LA-Word-Cloud-2I love data, I enjoy the endless sleepless nights analyzing the gathered data to find patterns (that is what I will actually be doing for the next few months), make implications and come up with conclusions. However, I am more of a “Qualitative research person” and that’s why personal opinions, stories, experiences are very important for me in any research. In the classroom what is important for me is the connection which as a teacher I make with my learners. When something is going not necessarily as it was supposed to be in the learning process, it is important for me to make assumptions according to all the information that I share with my learners. Classroom and educational research for me is also very valuable when it is designed qualitatively and when each participant of the research is approached personally.

I am telling you all this now, because recently we had a conversation at the University about the significance of learning Analytics and how it may change the whole teaching and learning experience. I don’t want to discuss it in detail here, because there has been lots of comprehensive research done on various aspects of Learning Analytics and its usefulness as well as on all the ethical and privacy concerns that come with it.

However one think that was interesting to me is  how we always take any analysis for granted especially when its report is presented in numbers, percentages and nice metrics. I can’t absolutely disagree with the fact that Learning Analytics may have benefits for institutional and administrative purposes, but I have hard time believing that the number of clicks in LMS may all the time correctly assess the learner’s potential to pass or fail the course. For that purpose, the teacher’s observation of the students’ behavior, feelings, outside of the classroom problems is more reliable data for me. That data will more precisely tell me what might happen to a learner or will alert about changing the teaching method, materials, etc.

Learner Analytics seems to be an effective approach as it deals with “big data”, but do we really need “big data” for educational implications?  You may say yes and I wouldn’t argue with that. My only concern is that I don’t want education to follow the social trend of nowadays, when everything is about clicks and visits. When the popularity of a person, organization or product started to be calculated by the number of likes (clicks) or the visits to the respective Facebook page, people started paying for “fake” likes and visits to create “fake” popularity and social networking success. I don’t think anybody would like the same future  Education!

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