My COVID hobby has been to learn to cook. After many (less-than-successful) attempts at new dishes, I have come to appreciate how important the right combination and timing of ingredients can be to getting a delicious outcome.

If we apply this principle to how universities use data to inform learning and teaching, how can we improve the recipe for using learning analytics (LA) to enhance student learning?

We have plenty of the main ingredient, data. When we mix data with analytics techniques, we get various representations (e.g., dashboards, tables, reports, etc.) to be served to management, teachers, and sometimes directly to students.

However, several other key ingredients are necessary for an effective LA implementation, including:

Understanding of the principles of learning and teaching

Enhancing teacher (and student) understanding of how students learn is a necessary ingredient for bridging the ‘pedagogical gap’ which can sometimes obstruct the translation of LA data into meaningful insights and action.

Data literacy

Data literacy is important for both teachers and students to get the most out of LA. A general awareness of how to work with and interpret data can increase the effectiveness of LA.

Well-designed learning analytics tools

Institutions sometimes rely on generic, LMS-based analytics tools that may not provide the access, customisability and outputs teachers and students need for analytics to be useful. Investment in tools that provide options to match LA data with learning design can help to address this issue.

An ethical lens

Ensuring that LA is used in an ethical way to protect the interests of students and teachers is a vital ingredient in any LA recipe. Helpfully, a multi-institutional group of LA experts prepared a discussion paper in 2019 outlining key ethical principles to address when implementing LA in the Australian higher education environment.

As with any recipe, there may be other ingredients that can be added and adjusted to suit institutional taste. Continuous tasting (evaluation) of the LA recipe over time to ensure its ongoing effectiveness is also important – especially in the ever-changing educational and technological context within which we are currently cooking.

Associate Professor Linda Corrin, Director, Learning Transformations/Associate Professor, Learning Analytics, Swinburne University of Technology [email protected] @LindaCorrin

Swinburne University of Technology is a member of CAULLT (Council of Australasian University Leaders in Learning and Teaching


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