Some useful articles, but why oh why do the Guardian and the smart people writing here call it “Extreme Learning”? http://t.co/XOwTokQVy9
— Brian Lamb (@brlamb) March 26, 2014
And I followed the link to this Guardian article on learning analytics by Rebecca Ferguson. It covers the idea of how big data can help us track and intervene in students’ progress before they’re beyond the pale. All this is managed through various data-driven systems that students work in—which, by the way, quickly pushes us right back into a centralized system mindset in higher ed. We’ll obviosuly need a vendor-sponsored product for that! The work is modelled on the tried and true datamining practives used extensively in commercial spaces like GMail, Amazon, Facebook, etc. The basic premise being that, and I’ll paraphrase here, “learning analytics is the Moneyball of education.” Performance predicted by data and value premised on numbers. I’ve read a nightmare scenario along these lines recently.
What struck me in the article was one of the examples used to showcase this technology links to a 2010 EDUCAUSE Review article about Purdue’s Course Signals. If Course Signals is the forerunner in the States of the promise of this technology we’ve got a problem. Why? Well, because a lot has happened since 2010. Mike Caulfield pointed out six months ago, and Michael Feldstein re-iterated, the research claims of the effectiveness of Course Signals to increase retention are deeply problematic. What’s more, there has been no response from Purdue about any of this. As Feldstein notes, their “credibility is on the line.” I’m not saying learning analytics might no hold some water, but if Course Signals is the city upon the hill in terms of examples and the research is shoddy and a pretigious academic institution is close-lipped about their research that is ultimately a product driving an approach to edtech, we should be very concerned.
What’s more, shouldn’t TheGuardian article have some sense of the other side of all this when it comes to learnign analytics. Data is always framed by the people who are collecting it and, in Purdue’s case with Course Signals, packaging it as a product. I couldn’t have been prouder of Caulfield (as a representative of us lowly edtech types) actually doing the math, picking up on this issue, and in the academic tradition making his concerns a part of the public dicourse. Alternatively, I’m still flabbergasted that the learning analytics discussion has gone on seemingly unconcerned with the fact that the shining example being waved like a banner for the cause is making claims for retention that can’t be supported.