Andy Alferovs, managing director of Kortext, digital textbook solutions provider, discusses how universities can harness the opportunities of learning analytics and how students are actually encouraging institutions to use their big data.
Young people are natural adopters of technology and in a digital age where they are turning to Spotify for their listening demands and browsing Netflix for visual entertainment, it makes sense that their learning needs are changing too. This is where education technology comes in.
Innovations in edtech are offering universities new opportunities to improve teaching and learning, one advantage being analytics and big data. Learning analytics can offer key indicators, such as how an individual student is engaging with their course content and how a whole class is progressing.
Getting the grades
Today’s students are making huge financial and time commitments, so many will be thinking about how to make sure their investment pays off, with great career opportunities at the end of their studies.
Our University of the Future report suggests students are focussed on getting the best grades possible. When we surveyed 1,000 current students and recent graduates, a huge 91% said they would be happy for their lecturer to track their progress week by week if it helped them to get the best grades.
It stands to reason, then, that more universities are proactively harnessing the benefits of learning analytics to gain invaluable insight into academic performance, learning habits and students’ engagement with their course materials.
The next generation of students embarking on university are millennials, who barely have memory of a time before 24-hour internet access and using handheld devices to manage their day to day lives.
This group is arguably more open than previous generations to sharing their data for everything from health and fitness to personalised shopping recommendations
This group is arguably more open than previous generations to sharing their data for everything from health and fitness to personalised shopping recommendations. Our research shows that students are just as comfortable for academic data to be used in the same way, and almost half (47%) believed their grades would improve if lecturers had the ability to see how well they are doing throughout the course.
Learning analytics can open up new opportunities for lecturers to gain real-time insights into how their students are working. It provides an opportunity to tweak and tailor their approach and even offer personalised learning recommendations to individuals, in turn helping them to get the best academic results.
Learning analytics can be used for much more than helping to boost grades. The statistics can also be incorporated into universities’ retention strategies to help identify individuals who may be disengaged with their course content, giving lecturers an opportunity to work with them before they drop out.
A report by the Social Market Foundation reveals that 6% of university students drop out after their first year and as such, retention is a huge focus for universities. According to our research just over three quarters of students (76%) believe better use of learning analytics could be key to tackling drop-out rates.
Analysing big data
With all this in mind, forward thinking universities can utilise algorithms which draw on big data sets from multiple aspects of the learning experience (e.g. students’ use of online textbooks) ensuring students get the most out of their course fees. Used alongside other data from virtual learning environments and library systems, the data could provide important insight into wider learning trends enabling universities to provide more accurate evaluations from an individual level right up to university-wide.
Students are quite rightly demanding more for their financial and time investment, so universities should be thinking about providing the highest quality student experience, the best results and the most exciting opportunities to succeed after university
Students are quite rightly demanding more for their financial and time investment, so universities should be thinking about providing the highest quality student experience, the best results and the most exciting opportunities to succeed after university.
For universities to truly meet the needs of their students, they should be using all the information available to them in better supporting how they are engaging with their studies. So now really is the time to lean in to learning analytics.