22 November 2012

Learning Analytics

Learning Analytics

Learning Analytics is a hot topic currently, so let's take a look at what all the fuss is about.  

According to Wikipedia:
Learning analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs. 
Link to source

Why am I looking at learning analytics?

If we start to investigate learning analytics in the context of Moodle use by students we can see some distinct benefits.
  • For students, learning analytics can add meaning, context and emotional connection through a personalized learning process.
  • For tutors, it can increase productivity, efficiency and evolve the teaching process into a mentoring relationship.
  • For administrators, greater understanding of how learners communicate, complete tasks and construct new knowledge, combined with blogs, and Twitter activity will inform the design and development of optimal learning experiences.
  • For institutions, all the consequences of learning analytics as documented above can provide a significant boost in quality to the services provided, to reputation and prestige.
Where to from here?

There are some Moodle plugins being developed currently that I am watching the progress of. Here are two examples recently discussed at the Moodle Research Conference:
  • MOC Log -Monitoring Online Courses with log data Visualisation of log data, anonymous for privacy and viewable by course and category for particular roles and groups.
  • MonSys – Monitoring System Gives teachers alerts for students who have not accessed their course for a set number of days.
  Where to find out more Moodle.org now have an Analytics and Reporting forum here.

08 November 2012

Moodle Research Conference

The first Moodle Research Conference was held in Crete in September 2012, organised by Moodle, CosyLlab and It Is Art Ltd. This is a fantastic addition to the Moodlemoots with the potential to lead to exciting new developments and sharing of lessons learned to improve practice. The conference proceedings are here - http://research.moodle.net/MoodleCon_Proceedings_program/index.htm - and there is a plan for videos of presentations to be put on the website.
I attended and presented a paper on "a community approach to staff development in eLearning" that I co-wrote with Nicoletta Rata-Skudder.

The highlights for me:
  • Found out that all Moodle HQ developers are completing the MCC certificate, and this means they are also interacting with teachers on the course
  • Babelium plugin - teacher adds a video, mutes out parts of the speaking, student records their voice where required - but can be used for storyboarding or question/answer as well as scripted conversations. Code available, definitely testing this.
  • CADMOS - digital lesson plan, simple graphical tool. It's a stand alone application that you install on Windows or Mac and you restore into Moodle course. Creates all your topics, resources (labels, pages etc) and activities. The pilot feedback was good.
  • GLUE and GLUE-PS. Integrates other web 2 tools into Moodle. e.g. Google docs, dabbleboard, doodle, mediawiki, ... you add activity GLUE GDocs, set groups access like separate groups and upload files - it makes the google doc available just to the right people! There were other features, like pedagogical pattern collector but I can't remember all the details now.
  • MOCLog - new visualisation for log data to show processes and outcomes of learning and teaching, gives anonymous data for privacy, you can view course and category analytics. Runs using CRON and is incremental. User chooses category and course(s), roles, report types, maps against an elearning model. You see activity types view/update/delete/upload/write. You can assign weightings and make your own maps. You can view in groups. There is a visual display with pie chart, graph. Moodle HQ asked how they can improve Moodle logging data to enable more tools like this. The code is available in sourceforge if we want to test this out. CAREFUL - powerful tool but lots of potential for misinterpretation of meaning of the data.
  • MonSys - creates tutor reports around participation in forums, sends alerts to tell if students not accessing over certain number of days, used for quick identification of access difficulties and helping those students. Tested on 600 students with 19 tutors in Brasil (I think). Looked interesting.
  • ELIS - might be useful as bridge between student management system and Moodle, but presentation time was not long enough for the presenter to show all his content so would have to look further to really understand how it would work. Has usersets, class instances, class enrolment data (completion, grades, credits, objectives), learning program, tracking, learning objectives (define goals and associate with activities). Feed information in ELIS and use for reporting, a Moodle 2 plugin. There is a dashboard in MyMoodle.
Other stuff presented at the conference
  • Tagging project at Uni Canterbury - teacher tags resources/activities and student can search by tags, very basic and would be more useful if students were tagging resources/activities.
  •  PBL tool developed to give students access to resources in international repositories in a pedagogically sound way, uses scales of confidence to search resources appropriate to learner, learner tags and feedback refines searches for future users - tool in its infancy but will be useful in time.
  • Case study in West Australia - University and Secondary schools, course IHSO8801 Integrated Human Studies (overview here http://learning.ewfi.org/moodle20/mod/page/view.php?id=2326 ) - they used Moodle, Skype to build relationships, had VC 2 hours per week w/ LMS facilitating in between, not clear what the outcomes were from his presentation.
  • Some volunteers somehow related to a Church in Greece developed online teacher training courses, subjects - web 2 tools, podcasting, blogs, innovative teaching. They use ADDIE model and talked about LT model (learning together), STAD (not defined in the presentation). There is a vision of a new school (not sure what that means) and new curricula. There is a Greek School Network which is a free service (Moodle 1.7 currently). These volunteers used Wiziq for synchronous video conferencing, and made SCORM packages with eXe and Articulate. They said they were online ALL THE TIME. There is apparently no teacher registration or certification in Greece.
  • Categorisation of learning design courses in virtual environments - looked for usage patterns and basically they found most use of Moodle was "repository".
  • Improving design of courses - graphical external tool, preconfigure courses for teachers, work in progress.
  • Israel Math / Science / Technology courses for school students, have an outdoor science garden (very cool), they asked children what they wanted, found all the kids had laptops, smartphones, tablets, TVs in their rooms, some schools 1 to 1 laptops, good school has 5 to 1 and bad school has 10 to 1, teachers not sure how to use technology so they help, lots of interactive stuff with kids talking to researchers and asking questions, using Moodle and Elluminate, treasure hunts and fun activities and competitions, reducing fear of maths. They building inquiry skills, exploration, argument skills. If we could teach Hebrew in NZ schools then this would be awesome.
  • Innovation in flexible and collaborative learning. The story of moving from 1.9 to 2 they increased emphasis on images, selected rotating theme images based on pedagogy (adults, different ethnicities, collaboration), new icons like coffee corner for forum, completion criteria made obvious, tech advice icon, more personalisation emphasised with my files area and my portfolio made prominent. They made programme themes of different colours. 5 lessons learned - planning, research, specs and testing, managing change, outcomes and evaluation.
  • Question - do Moodle analytics have a role in learning design, feedback and assessment? Discussed the London Pedagogy Planner project, use of tool not obvious by design, need to teach how to use tool properly, look at activity patterns, connectivity patterns, and learning design. The researchers were asking the audience for answers and ideas for their question.
  • Learning analytics with Excel Pivot tables - tool to analyse usage data of Moodle, anonymous intuitive GUI then 3 options into Excel - 1. quick overview with specific charts, 2. personalised overview with pivot tables, 3. for the hardcore data geeks. A Moodle block where you select course and analysis type, download. You get action, date, activity name and user id. Template provided to help with pivot table creation.
  • Moodbile - some sort of external API layer and connector layer that uses Moodle 2 web services architecture for Android, iOS and HTML5 clients.
  • Plugins for programming courses - overview. They mentioned MOSS plagiarism plugin.
  • Islamic environment - first experiment with GIRLS in the classroom. Boys on main floor and girls sit behind screen in balcony area. Some teachers allowed for verbal discussion between girls and boys in the classroom. NO online discussion was allowed between girls and boys in Moodle so a new system wide Moodle role was created for girls. The results strongly suggest girls should be there.
  • Moodle front end for Greek language learning - they had a problem with student engagement, they made teams (content, pedagogy, graphics, technology) who worked together on tasks (created notebook, glossary... other stuff), embedded questions and gave animated feedback for every event. They wanted enriched resources, drag and drop, lots of iframes and flash. Target was 5 year olds through to higher education.
  • Improving Math - problem was students decreasing math competence prior to starting study, objective to improve 3 months to 1 month before study started. Made plugins that showed personal feedback in graph, put thumbs up / down next to each topic (quite cute actually), used book module with formulas.
  • Alex talked about research. Recognition of commercial research bias, separated internal (solves a Moodle issue) and external (solves an education issue) research. Talked about dissemination - telling/showing others what you did, Journals and conferences, plugins developed. Exploitation - benefits from your research - finding a market for your product/output, IP, says CONTRIBUTE - share your code. Sounded like sales pitch; Alex suggested researchers go work for Moodle Partners to earn more than at University.
There are plans for research.moodle.net that I think we should keep an eye on too, and contribute to. The current thinking is that this becomes the hub for sharing research plans, progress and outcomes, and that these feed into the direction of Moodle core, the design of Modules and Plugins, and the conversations around the future.
Some interesting blog posts related to the Moodle Research Conference: