From Bricks to Clicks – The Potential of Data and Analytics in Higher Education

The Higher Education Commission released their fourth inquiry report today. This report, From Bricks To Clicks, looks at the state of data collection and learning analytics across the HE sector in England.

Despite fears of a looming big brother, data collection and learning analytics is recognised as a key trend over the next three to five years.

The report is well worth reading in its entirety and provides 12 clear recommendations. Picking out a few highlights…

Fluid data has the potential to provide an instant, accurate picture of how a student is performing – if it is able to be collected, linked and analysed. This is called learning analytics, which is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners for the purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs. The Commission believes this has enormous potential to improve the student experience at university, by allowing the institution to provide targeted and personalised support and assistance to each student.

Despite the popularity of learning analytics and the clear aspiration for its use in HE it is surprising how little traction it does have in the sector so far.

Learning analytics is still in its relative infancy in the UK, and most institutions have not yet implemented a system in full.

It is also important for institutions to be honest about their objectives in the use of learning analytics. Some goals will be student-centric while others may be more institution focused. Thus it is important to ensure an ethical approach to data collection.

We recommend that institutions put in place clear ethical policies and codes of practices to govern the use of student data in analytics and other digital systems. This not only gives universities a guide to ensure their analytics systems are appropriate and legal, but also increases student acceptance of their own data being used in analytics. These policies should, at a minimum, address student privacy, security of data and consent, and should be updated whenever there is a change to the data used or the analytics undertaken. The Commission felt it was crucial that institutions sought informed consent from their students.

Learning and learner analytics are on our own organisational roadmap. We have a range of different tools being trialed which will be the subject of future blog posts.

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