Held on Friday the 16th of March Dr Rebecca Ferguson – a Senior Lecturer in the Institute of Educational Technology (IET) at The Open University in the UK, and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy led a discussion about the evidence provided by learning analytics.
Dr Rebecca Ferguson is a Senior Lecturer in the Institute of Educational Technology (IET) at The Open University in the UK, and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She is an executive member of the Society for Learning Analytics Research, programme chair of LAK18, and a leading member of the international learning analytics community. Her work has been influential in shaping the field, supporting implementation across Europe, and promoting a focus on social learning analytics. She has been invited to lead events in this area on five continents, including several associated with her work as principal investigator on the European Learning Analytics Community Exchange (LACE) and on LAEP, a project that helped European policymakers to set out an agenda for high-quality and stimulating ways of learning and teaching through the use of learning analytics.
Rebecca has been a pedagogic adviser to the FutureLearn MOOC platform since its foundation, supporting its development of conversational learning. Her extensive experience of MOOC development and evaluation provides a firm basis for her research on learning at scale. She is academic coordinator of the FutureLearn Academic Network, linking academics from over 110 partner institutions around the world – including seven in Australia –and helping to develop a focused research agenda. In particular, she focuses on developing the next generation of researchers in this field, and organises an annual conference event that brings together postgraduate students from universities around the world.
Rebecca is lead author on the Open University’s Innovating Pedagogy 2017 report. This highly cited series of high-profile annual reports explores new forms of teaching, learning and assessment in order to guide educators and policy makers around the world. Her most recent book, Augmented Education, was published by Palgrave in Spring 2014. For more information, visit https://r3beccaf.wordpress.com/
Learning Analytics: Learning from the ‘Evidence’
Where is the evidence for learning analytics? In particular, where is the evidence that it improves learning in practice? Can we rely on it? Currently, there are vigorous debates about the quality of research evidence in medicine and psychology, with particular issues around statistical good practice, the ‘file drawer effect’, and ways in which incentives for stakeholders in the research process reward the quantity of research produced rather than the quality. In this paper, we present the Learning Analytics Community Exchange (LACE) project’s Evidence Hub, an effort to relate research evidence in learning analytics to four propositions about learning analytics: whether they support learning, support teaching, are deployed widely, and are used ethically. Surprisingly little evidence in this strong, specific sense was found, and very little was negative (7%, N=123), suggesting that learning analytics is not immune from the pressures in other areas. We explore the evidence in one particular area in detail (whether learning analytics improve teaching and learners support in the university sector), and set out some of the weaknesses of the evidence available. We conclude that there is considerable scope for improving the evidence base for learning analytics, and set out some suggestions of ways for various stakeholders to achieve this.