Insights on the adoption of learning analytics: a reflection from a Best Student Paper award winner

By Hazel Jones (Griffith University)

At the 2019 ASCILITE conference I was honoured to be presented with the award for the Best Student Full Paper, for my paper titled Barriers, enablers, and motivations for staff adoption of learning analytics: Insights for professional learning opportunities from an Australian university.

This blog post outlines the main points from that paper, provides an overview of consequent work through my PhD study, and notes the journey to the paper which I hope serves as encouragement to others to submit papers for future conferences.

Paper summary

The paper reported on the initial data-gathering stage of my PhD which I am now in the final weeks of writing-up. The main focus of the paper was discussion of results of a survey of academic staff conducted in 2016 at University of Southern Queensland. The survey was designed to gain insights on current levels of knowledge and use of learning analytics and staff motivations for engaging with learning analytics data from the LMS (Moodle). Survey respondents reported low levels of knowledge about, and use of, Learning Analytics (LA), as well as a lack of confidence in accessing, interpreting, and acting on, data. Understanding the capabilities and motivations of academics towards adopting and using LA to support their development of technology-enhanced learning is an important first step in designing an effective and flexible adoption plan which has been the aim of my PhD study. Inductive and deductive thematic analyses of interview transcripts with eight academics complemented the survey results and identified three main themes of indicators of successful LA adoption: effective learning design and enhanced teaching practice; improved student experience; and academic recognition. Results discussed in the paper showed that:

  • The main barriers for LA adoption are lack of knowledge of the tools and reports available in the LMS; in interpreting data; implementing appropriate actions; as well as lack of time to effectively engage with LA;
  • The opportunities and supports that need to be provided to academics include provision of time to engage, and provision of support to access and interpret data and design appropriate interventions; and
  • Academics perceive successful adoption of LA in a number of different ways, including a combination of improved student experience, more effective course design and efficient teaching practice, and evidence to enable academic recognition and career progression.

The paper also proposed a series of elements to be included in a suite of professional learning opportunities, to meet the challenge of successful adoption of LA by individual staff. These elements have since been developed into the following set of six design principles for a LA implementation plan that could be adopted and adapted in higher education institutions:

  1. Provide training and professional learning opportunities in all aspects of LA adoption in a range of modalities
  2. Provide support and resources for all aspects of LA
  3. Provide easy access to relevant and actionable LA data
  4. Nurture a workplace culture that encourages and enables use of LA through structures and discourse
  5. Provide clear and timely communication of available reports, support and any changes to systems
  6. Facilitate professional learning by dedicated staff with expert knowledge and skills in LA and pedagogical considerations

The paper evolved from several rejected submissions to other conferences, taking onboard feedback from reviewers and finding the correct fit, showing that resilience and perseverance, along with some hard work, can turn rejection into success. A further paper on later stages of my research study Using the Behaviour Change Wheel for Learning Analytics adoption has since been published in the Companion Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Learning Analytics & Knowledge LAK20 and there will (hopefully) be more conference papers and journal articles to come once my thesis is submitted.

With the increasing importance of quality online learning since the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic, comes a growing need for academic staff and the educational designers and academic developers who support them, to use the full affordances of LA. My approach and implementation plan provide a solution to this need and I would welcome the opportunity to discuss the insights from my study and the learning analytics implementation plan with other institutions.

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Rae Jobst
Rae Jobst
1 month ago

Thanks for sharing your work Hazel. You have actually helped me make a stronger personal commitment to increasing my capabilities on use of learning analytics.