Learning Analytics exist to improve educational business decision-making, improve learner academic success, and indirectly life success (so we all hope).
Knight, Brozina, and Novoselich (2016) add insight into learner’s perceptions of how learning analytics approaches contribute to their individual success. The authors were careful to detail their sample: students within a mid-Atlantic university engineering program. In highlighting the importance of the intended limiting of the sample, the authors provided some critique for learning analytics platforms and the perceived interdisciplinary “one-size-fits-all” approach (p. 218). Their study sought to shed light on a more focused disciplinary approach (engineering), as well as informing the primary research question: how learners describe learning analytics approaches as contributing to student success.
Students participated in semi-structured interviews, answering questions such as “how do you define success in college,” “what are some important keys for success as a student,” “how might you go about measuring success,” “what types of data do you think would help you understand how well you are doing as a student,” etc.
Results were not surprising: a major theme expressed within the data included the importance of time. “Students repeatedly pointed to time elements as being an important characteristic of a learning analytics product and saw value in incorporating scheduling or time management functions to help support their overall success.” (p. 223). Students also commented on the importance of knowing how their time on task related to classmates’ time spent on tasks and or performance.
The IntelliBoard Learner Dashboard, shown above, provides a snapshot of this comparison data. Students have the ability to view their performance against that of the entire student population.
Students can view their grades correlated against time spent on the respective activity. Obviously, we know not to confuse correlation/causation, but it is difficult to argue the importance and value of the time spent on learning, particularly when the results yield higher grades.
What the IntelliBoard dashboard does not currently include, but focus group participants shared in the study, is the importance of the time spent by other learners – particularly high achieving learners – within the course/major/discipline. This was surprising – at least for me. The authors pointed to an additional study that echoes this facet: McPherson, Tong, Fatt, Liu (2016).
Perhaps this could be attributed to the motivation of benchmarking, or plain ol’ competition, but nevertheless, students are influenced by the behaviors of their peers.