Learning Analytics Case Study: Griffith College
The first phase of the Student Retention and Success project commenced in August 2021 with 17 Griffith College staff members undertaking learning analytics professional development provided by Learning and Teaching Services throughout trimester 3, 2021. Moodle learning analytics were analysed to identify actionable data for student retention purposes. Tailored reports enabled monitoring of the progress of large student cohorts during the pilot period, and trends of student preferences for optional activities and resources were monitored.
Learning analytics is defined as “the practice of developing actionable insights through the collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs” (Siemens & Long, 2011). During the pilot, teachers tracked student interaction, engagement, behaviour, and outcomes as students progressed through their course of study each week.
Griffith College staff members Inez Chai (left; Lecturer in Management, Marketing, and Intercultural Studies; Life Changing Lens Award Finalist) and Melinda Villamizar (right; Program Advisor for Foundation; Lecturer in Computer Skills and Academic Communication Skills) share insights on their learning analytics journey so far.
- What was your experience using learning analytics prior to the pilot?
Inez: Before the pandemic I was not familiar with learning analytics, and I hadn’t used any learning analytics tools. While teaching online, I attended a webinar organised by Learning and Teaching Services that presented an overview of learning analytics. I found it fascinating, and it ignited my curiosity to learn more. I was excited to get learning analytics professional development, as such tools can help us create more active learning activities/assessment and ensure that students are on track.
Melinda: I was new to learning analytics and I was pleased to find out that you do not need to be a maths or Excel expert at all to use certain tools.
- After participating in the pilot study, what is your current understanding of learning analytics?
Inez: Learning analytics helps teachers identify learning gaps, especially with flexible learning. It can really help teachers help the students. When teaching, there is sometimes a level of using intuition with student follow-up, but when applying learning analytics, you are not just guessing. Teachers can use online student behaviour information for their students’ benefit more quickly, even before the trimester starts. It is sometimes already too late by census date. Through Learning and Teaching Services (UPA)’s online workshops, I built useful skills in learning analytics, all relatable and necessary for my teaching. I really enjoyed these sessions as they were delivered at a good pace and covered tips on unit learning design, configuring learning analytics, and evaluating Moodle reports and data for student follow-up strategies.
Melinda: While I haven’t had a chance to apply some of the things covered in the professional development sessions, it was interesting to hear about how teachers are able to track points of interaction, even before the trimester starts. It’s great to be able to track engagement with content and completion of activities, formative tasks, and assessment.
When teaching there is sometimes a level of using intuition with student follow-up, but when applying learning analytics, you are not just guessing. Teachers can use online student behaviour information for their students’ benefit more quickly, even before the trimester starts. It is sometimes already too late by census date – Inez Chai
- What was the focus of the learning analytics measures you undertook?
Inez: I generally focus on live session engagement to see who is really listening and engaging with my online sessions in real time. I have found activity reports very useful. I go to “participants” on Moodle and check the live/daily logs to see which students are engaging with content and activities I am running. I generally first teach a concept and then to promote active learning I often use Padlet and H5P activities. With Padlet you can clearly see who is engaging with it, and through learning analytic tools I can now also see who completed H5P tasks and who did not.
Melinda: I wanted to be able to run information on specific cohorts of students as I needed those details for after-class engagement reports to share with managers. A report downloaded gave me an overview of overall engagement and another report gave me specific participant and assessment information.
- What insights did you derive from the data and what action did you take?
Inez: I found there were students sitting in front of their computer but not doing a task assigned. I take immediate action and contact students via the chat feature before the end of the session or through emails. I clearly tell them what I am looking at, that I could see they were not engaged during a live session and that I can also see who has been doing their tasks. This approach worked well this trimester and I was able to bring ‘distracted’ students back to the class and they continued joining every week. Therefore, I’ve been using the data to fill in learning gaps and to see what support students need. It has also helped me build rapport with students through quick and specific communication.
Melinda: I am still to apply some of the tools but following reports I downloaded, I sent follow-up emails. Generally, students respond to that contact as they see a level of concern and interest in them, and they seem to expect being monitored in a way. I’m keen to learn more about strategies to continue to support students based on data at hand.
- What advice would you give to teachers implementing learning analytics?
Melinda: Don’t be scared! Learning analytic tools can be very easy to use – they are simple, straightforward, and extremely useful as they can be applied to both on campus and online cohorts. Just have a go!
Inez: I was going to say the same thing! Even when teaching on campus, students have tasks to complete online anyway, so learning analytics is always going to be important. I am not a maths person; I just look at the information and boxes ticked, and it is all very easy to follow. Particularly since the pandemic, we’ve had to try different things and change our teaching methods. It’s about evolving, having flexibility and adjust according to students’ needs and behaviour as well.
Staff from UPA Colleges have been collaborating in the development of a prototype through a Learning Analytics Community of Practice (LA CoP). For more information on the LA CoP and the Student Retention and Success project, contact email@example.com.
Siemens, G. & Long, P. (2011). Penetrating the Fog: Analytics in Learning and Education. Educause Review, 46(5), 9. Retrieved from Educause Review Online: http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/penetrating-fog-analytics-learning-and-education