Learning Analytics - An Emerging Field for Data Collection

By Theresa Rowe, CIO, Oakland University

Theresa Rowe, CIO, Oakland University

Seek to Purchase Cloud Services

Agility and flexibility are key to success in educational technology and service delivery. We must move quickly, but we also need to make sure that we are efficient and effective. Students expect us to use their tuition dollars wisely while enabling and advancing their education. Cloud computing allows higher education institutions to have more options in service delivery. We’ve found that, on our campus, online specialized applications that-are coupled with analytical expertise, offer the most effectiveness. Cloud storage and backups allow us to grow quickly but we’ve found the entry costs to be an obstacle. There’s a lot to consider as we move from hardware and other capital expenditures for physical storage and backup systems, to operational expense for online subscriptions for storage and backup services. University funding and budgeting practices do not necessarily support that shift, but likely will change over time. As a strategy, we seek to purchase cloud services that offer new capabilities and greater expertise at a lower cost. If the cloud services or solutions are packaged with analytical specialists, who provide utilization and improvement roadmaps, we find the solution more valuable.

“Supporting student achievement to personal goals is the best way to drive business in a university environment”

Discover Pathways to Success

The premise that higher education doesn’t use data effectively to drive business needs to be checked for validity. When we think about driving business, we need to carefully consider the business that we are seeking to move forward. In education, business has to be learning and research. We lose credibility and the sense of public mission if we only focus on enrollment without learning. Much of the data we gather is about administrative and enrollment processing: counting enrolled students, counting students receiving financial aid, summing collected revenues, etc. These are good measures for how broadly we are achieving engagement and the university mission. We also need to gather data about learning measures and outcomes; learning analytics are an emerging field for data collection. But the tragedy of learning analytics occurs, when we let it slip to “teaching to the test.” Successful test scores in standardized tests do not necessarily measure creativity, personal discovery, critical thinking, and professional ethical judgment. We need to use data to discover pathways to success:

▶  Early discovery of a student’s talents and personal goals.

▶ Promotion of student selfreflection. How realistic are the personal goals that the student has set? How much support will the student receive from family and other support units to achieve those goals? How much personal resilience and dedication does the student demonstrate when working toward goals?

▶ Can we identify pathways and support that match the student’s personal direction and initiative?

Supporting student achievement to personal goals is the best way to drive business in a university environment. We have a lot to learn from industries that understand personalized marketing and product personalization. We are at the beginning of an era that will support personalized learning. This also loops back to cloud and other services; those services that are packaged with strong data analysts are more valuable.

Find More Success in the Sea of Trialanderror

The best way to foster innovation and growth is to support faculty. Our purpose is grounded in teaching and learning. Research, supports the discovery of new knowledge and innovation. All of this is centered on the contributions of faculty members. Faculty members, in turn, then share new knowledge and innovation with students, encouraging more innovation. The more success we find in these endeavors, the more there will be sustainable organic growth.

There are three key focal areas that support innovation and growth:

Providing Applications, Computing, and Storage to Support Collaborative Research

These tools can be expensive. But enabling crossdisciplinary and cross institutional research is critical to expanding ideas. Also, sharing resources leads efficiency.

Providing Data to Faculty about Teaching Effectiveness

Faculty members need encouragement and time to find new ways to teach. Sometimes the most difficult part about new teaching tools is developing the learning assessments and the outcomes review. Without data to show, what is working and what is not working, we can get lost in a sea of trialanderror without really moving forward.

Encouraging Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Students learn in a variety of ways and demonstrate a variety of skills, needs, interests, and background experiences. UDL principles and methods in the university sets may support learning and enrollment growth in nontraditional student populations, supporting enrollment growth and achievement of the university mission.

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