(Course reference: Blended Learning Essentials Embedding Practice, 1.8)
This is a very interesting and somewhat daunting topic. There are many complexities like privacy and data protection; does the data support the analysis? is the data reliable? does a focus on learning analytics lead to an overemphasis on quantifiable indicators?
I thought George Siemens of SOLAR gave a very useful definition of learning analytics.
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.
Source: Introduction to learning analytics (7:08, George Siemens, SOLAR)
I welcome the focus on learners and their contexts and he emphasis on improving learning.
As educators, we owe it to learners to offer them the best opportunities to learn effectively. If learning analytics data shows that medical students learn anatomy faster with longer retention of information if they use an interactive app allowing them to see 3-d renderings of particular parts of the body, with in-built quizzes to test their own knowledge compared with using a textbook, then the app should be the resource provided.
For millenials who have grown up in a digitally sophisticated world, there are habits of acquiring information rapidly from digital content designed to be absorbed quickly. And this is not merely infographics, but interactive apps which make it possible to find relevant information from huge datasets. Think of the laborious process of finding out from a print source which new movies are showing compared to database driven web or mobile apps. Acquisition of information is a key component of learning. Educators should be taking advantage of all the digital tools available to facilitate acquisition in the most engaging and efficient way.