10 Reasons Why Institutions Should Implement Learning Analytics

Cristina Wagner
Cristina Wagner
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Learning analytics turns raw data into valuable strategic information, offering insights to improve teaching, learning, and the environments in which they occur. We’ve gathered 10 reasons why learning analytics has the power to improve the educational experience.

Illustration Promote Reflection and Self-regulated Learning1. Promote Reflection and Self-regulated Learning

Student-facing reports help learners increase their performance by providing them with information about their course activity and performance compared to others. Systems like this can provide students with signals about how well they are doing in general, as well as information about specific areas they need to work on. By making learning analytics available to students, institutions can promote self-regulated learning. This practice not only improves student outcomes but also fosters a mindset that may help learners increase their post–graduation success.1

Illustration Identify Students at Risk of Poor Performance2. Identify Students at Risk of Poor Performance

By using data to identify students who are likely to struggle in a course, proactive advising can help students in a timely manner. Learning analytics surfaces relevant information about student engagement and performance that is key for academic advisors and student success specialists.¹ This way, professionals can reach out and intervene at an earlier stage than would otherwise be possible and help learners persist in spite of challenges.2 For example, using predictive analytics tools like Blackboard Predict, faculty and advisors can start identifying at-risk students before the second week in the semester.

Illustration Understand the Impact of Instructional Design Patterns on Student Performance3. Understand the Impact of Instructional Design Patterns on Student Performance

Learning analytics can help identify the most successful instructional design style by program and course. By correlating tool use by faculty and students with specific learning outcomes, institutions can identify and scale high impact practices to assist specific program and curricular goals. ¹⁰

Illustration Increase Reporting Efficiency4. Increase Reporting Efficiency

Colleges and universities must fulfill a wide variety of institutional reporting requirements. Many of these concern educational quality and the impact of educational technology investments. By capturing data on learning activity, and automating report creation, learning analytics technology can increase the accuracy and efficiency of institutional reporting in a way that frees analysts to think beyond mere reporting and also use the same data in support of other strategic initiatives on campus. For example, California Baptist University Online used Analytics for Learn to automate an attendance tracking process that was otherwise labor-intensive and prone to error.¹¹ Because of an increase in institutional efficiency, CBU Online is also able to start using that same information to identify at-risk students and intervene with targeted interventions to keep more students on track for graduation.

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How UCEM Uses Learning Analytics to Support Student Retention

Illustration Optimize Assessments5. Optimize Assessments

Learning analytics allows instructors to identify assignments that are highly associated with a student’s final grade and those that tend to correlate with a sudden drop in performance and course withdrawals. Instructors can quickly identify the assessments that are working and those that might need revision.

Illustration Measure Tool Adoption and Impact6. Measure Tool Adoption and Impact

With access to data on learning environment activity, institutions can get a realistic picture of how the system is being used and increase its adoption where it is likely to make the biggest impact. ¹² Institutions can also assess the use of third party tools, which, in some cases, might only be used by a few faculty members and do not justify their high costs. This process is important to establish an educational technology investment value, and also for instructional designers and faculty developers to look for evidence that supports assumptions about best practices.²

Illustration Improve Faculty Development7. Improve Faculty Development

With access to student engagement information, LMS usage and instructional design practices, learning analytics helps faculty developers provide evidence in support of high impact instructional practices. Access to information about faculty behavior before and after professional development activities also helps institutions to evaluate the impact of their faculty development initiatives. ¹³ Instructors are also able to identify and promote effective teaching practices, as they can immediately address gaps and challenges and adjust their courses accordingly.³ Data can also help identify areas in need of improvement by the instructor to facilitate enhanced instructor-student interactions in the educational environment.

Illustration Nudge Students to Improve Learning Behaviors8. Nudge Students to Improve Learning Behaviors

Learning analytics can be used to improve student success by providing students with relevant performance information and alerting them in advance whether they are at risk of not passing a course. When students can see how they are performing, it increases their sense of agency over their own learning and empowers them.8 Blackboard Learn Ultra has the ability to automate notifications embedded directly within the course. This way, students can receive more detailed information as well as a suggested action, allowing them to keep their performance on track and improve the areas in which they are having difficulties.

Illustration Understand the Impact of Assignments on Discussion Board Engagement9. Understand the Impact of Assignments on Discussion Board Engagement

Learning analytics can help instructors understand individual learners’ discussion forum activity, as well as critical thinking and the originality of their contributions. They can also test the impact that specific discussion board assignments have on the amount and quality of student participation in the online environment. With insights gained from learning analytics tools like X-Ray Learning Analytics, instructors can create activities to keep students engaged.

Illustration Identify and Eliminate Sources of Systematic Inequity10. Identify and Eliminate Sources of Systematic Inequity

Access to longitudinal data about relative student outcomes across different sections of the same course can help institutions to identify areas in which the course environment itself is creating barriers to success. For example, institutions often see significant grade variance between sources taught online and in person. At many institutions, faculty grading patterns differ widely between course sections. Pierce College and Indian River State College are examples of institutions that have benefited from access to this kind of data.


A Quick Guide to Understanding Concepts Related to Learning Analytics

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1 Blackboard. Nine things you can do with Blackboard Analytics for Learn [PDF].

2 Harfield, Timothy. From LMS Reporting to Learning Analytics: Exciting updates to Analytics for Learn. Retrieved November 17, 2017, from http://blog.blackboard.com/from-lms-reporting-to-learning-analytics-exciting-updates-to-analytics-for-learn.

3 Everhart, Deb. Learning Analytics: The Future is Now. Retrieved November 17, 2017, from https://edtechdigest.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/learning-analytics-the-future-is-now.

4 Whitmer, John. Do notifications get noticed? New study finds that embedded alerts to students promote action at high rates. Retrieved November 17, 2017, from http://blog.blackboard.com/new-study-notifications-promote-student-action.

5 Blackboard. X-Ray Learning Analytics. Retrieved November 17, 2017, from http://www.blackboard.com/resources/pdf/datasheet-xray-rev20170228_002_.pdf.

6 Osborn, Eliana. Dashboards for Success. Retrieved November 17, 2017, from https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2017/03/15/pierce-college-uses-data-dashboards-improve-graduation-rates.

7 Blackboard. Learn how Indian River State College grew their online enrollments by 35% in two years. Retrieved November 17, 2017, from http://pages.blackboard.com/campaign/analytics/indian-river-state-college-case-study.aspx.

8 Rattiner, Marlen. Walking the line of predictive analytics in higher education. Retrieved December, 2nd 2017, from http://blog.blackboard.com/walking-the-line-predictive-analytics-higher-education/.

9 John, A., Mansureh, K., Sandra, N., & Theresa, K. (n.d.). Learning Analytics Methods, Benefits, and Challenges in Higher Education: A Systematic Literature Review. Retrieved November 16, 2017, from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1105911.pdf

10 Harfield, Timothy. Analytics for Learn: Using data science to drive innovation in higher education. Retrieved December 4, 2017, from http://blog.blackboard.com/analytics-for-learn-data-science-innovation-higher-education/

11 Simpson, Rich. Using analytics to track non-attending students. Retrieved December4 2017, from http://blog.blackboard.com/using-analytics-to-track-non-attending-students/

12 Harfield, Timothy. Analytics From LMS Reporting to Learning Analytics: Exciting updates to Analytic. Retrieved December 4, 2017, from http://blog.blackboard.com/from-lms-reporting-to-learning-analytics-exciting-updates-to-analytics-for-learn/

13 Mead, M. (Director). (2017, June 13). Learning analytics and faculty development [Video file]. Retrieved December 4, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSJKVU6Ltys

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