As a society, we assess what we value. Within education, we use metrics and grades to give students a sense of what “good” looks like and how they can achieve this. That’s the aim. In practice, we end up assessing the knowledge and skills that we are able to measure, and setting aside others that we value. The development of learning analytics – data collected from students’ online footprints showing how or when they study – gives us an opportunity to change this practice.
Learning analytics draw on the expertise of data miners, who find and make use of patterns in big datasets. They combine this with pedagogy – the things we know about teaching, learning and assessment. Analytics make use of the digital traces left by learners in online learning environments in order to improve teaching and learning and the environments in which these take place.