Attended the ALT North East user group today at Durham Castle* to network and share practice with learning technologists from universities and colleges across the region.
A representative from Jisc was there to provide us with an update on their Learning Analytics project, which continues to look ever more impressive every time I see it. This was followed by a demonstration and talk about Special iApps which have been created to help children with special educational needs. Then we had two sessions on the use and value of Microsoft Teams in education, one from a Microsoft representative and one from a colleague at Teesside who have been using it in the wild with good results. Finally there was a demonstration of the survey tool BluePulse via webinar.
* The castle was nice. Really nice.
Attended a webinar for a demonstration of the new version of Analytics currently being developed for Canvas. The new version will bring a new look and make it easier for staff to get an overview of student performance in their modules and how it compares with other students. This is still in the early stages of development and the webinar was also to gain my feedback. What I think is missing from the demonstrated design is the ability to view and compare a student’s performance across different assignments in the same module, which was noted and should be fairly easy to implement, and across different modules in the same programme, much more difficult due to the way different institutions manage the relationship between programme and module spaces. With that in mind I have a follow up call next week to discuss how we would like to see this work, which is part of a broader consultation Instructure is having with the UK HE sector to better meet our needs in this area.
ALT has published the report and data from their second annual survey which can be dowloaded here. Interesting reading as they now have comparative data from last year’s survey so you can see the trends and changes.
No signs of the monolithic VLE going anywhere just yet, and interest in the field of data and learning analytics is continuing to grow. I was a little surprised to see open badges so far down the list, but as a colleague in another department said to me a few days ago, employers don’t know what they are or how to value them, and as a consequence students just aren’t interested.
The old customer support and Google Analytics reports that I have been doing for the past year, and in some form for many years now, were good as far as they went but didn’t encompass all of the other work that we do, the services that we provide and the systems we support. In an effort to provide something that goes a little wider I have created this new style of report which picks out the highlights of the two old reports and adds in what measures are available from our other systems. I actually did most of this work a few months ago, but it took time to be approved. With agreement from the big boss I am also now publishing this report publicly on our website.
Part of what prompted this was my new found liking of Piktochart and the desire to turn my reports into more of an infographic, but in the end I stuck with Excel as there were a number of charts with data that I found I was just going to end up having to screenshot and import into Piktochart, which kind of defeated the point.
Adding to our range of Quick Start guides I have written a new one on Learning Analytics and the tools we have available. I will be following this up shortly with one which goes into more detail on Enterprise Reporting, covering the standard reports which are available and how people can get viewer accounts from the team.
Attended a special meeting of the White Rose Learning Technologists Forum at the University of Sheffield which was opened up beyond Yorkshire for a themed event on learning analytics.
The principal speaker was Martin Hawksey who gave a dense and extremely informative presentation which explored the history of learning analytics, methodology, available tools, threats and opportunities. He then introduced us to two tools for social network analysis, TAGS which archives and analyses Twitter hashtag searches, and NodeXL which has similar functionality but which requires less technical knowledge to set up and can import data from other social networks including YouTube and FaceBook. Martin has written a blog post about his presentation which is available here and the presentation itself can be found here.
Martin was followed by Patrick Lynch from the University of Hull who gave a talk about his work and experience with learning analytics using Excel and Tableau, a more powerful tool for analytics analysis. Patrick also talked about his experience with issues of privacy and ethics which he found varied wildly among students, with some fearing Big Brother while others found the analytics extremely helpful in informing their own learning, and shared other lessons learned such as the fact that you cannot necessarily infer meaning from action. The example he gave was of a report which identified students who had not accessed certain content items at the expected times, but investigation found that in some cases this was because they had downloaded the entire course content at the start of the course.
Finally, Jamie Lepiorz from the English department at the University of Sheffield talked about his experience of using analytics and student feedback to inform the development of the Animals in Film Archive and related module.
Photo is courtesy of Danny Monaghan. More photos and Tweets are available from the #WRLTF hashtag on Twitter.
One of my little areas of expertise at Northumbria was providing analytics data and reports on Blackboard usage and it’s something which was missing here at Sunderland, for the VLE at least. Unfortunately the way Learning Studio works it has not been possible to implement Google Analytics tracking code system wide, but I’m not easily deterred! I found a way to embed the code into an announcement on the landing page so that we can at least get client side data: numbers, technology, location and mobile use which is all useful in informing development.
If the report looks a little familiar, well, that’s just because great cooks bake nice cakes no matter what kitchen they’re in!
As part of my handover arrangements I have had to write a set of instructions on how to compile the learning analytics report I have been responsible for. This document alone was such an extensive piece of work that it warranted a separate project in my handover to do list and took me pretty much an entire day. The resulting seven page, 3,000 word document covers how to update and complete the master spreadsheet, where to find all of the various measures in Google Analytics and Blackboard, and how to create the report on PebblePad usage, the most complex one as it involves database queries and I was handing over to someone with little experience of databases, so the instructions needed to be detailed and precise.
For the past three years now I’ve been running Google Analytics on Blackboard and compiling a monthly report for senior management and steering groups. A standard was agreed for what this should contain by consensus fairly early on and it has changed little since, until a couple of months ago when, due to the changes in management, I was asked to revamp the report to remove some things which weren’t required any more and to report on anything new which I thought pertinent. The biggest change was the request for a ‘commentary’ on each page explaining some meanings and trends. I have also integrated the PebblePad usage by Faculty report I wrote last month into this, as PebblePad has a tendency to be overlooked and almost forgotten about.
Our Blackboard help guides have always been hosted on their own little mini-website hosted in a Blackboard organisation, but set to public availability. You can see them here: http://northumbria.ac.uk/elphelp for the student guides, and here: http://northumbria.ac.uk/elphelp for the staff guides. These were created a couple of years ago by the awesome Chris, but with his departure from LTech last year I was tasked with updating or replacing these websites to bring them into line with the university’s new colour scheme and style. I took the originals as a starting point but pared them back to just the essentials (there were lots of extraneous files and code), implemented the new branding, and took the opportunity to make a few improvements.
One of the best improvements I have made is the implementation of media queries in the CSS to automatically adjust the height of the iframe to best match the user’s screen resolution. I did get to a point where I was able to automatically adjust its size to 100%, it worked a treat in Firefox and I was really pleased, until I tested in other browsers and got tiny little windows. I hate iframes. If I had more time I would have created something completely new and truly responsive, but I had to get this done quickly as the eSAF help guides were ready to go live and we have so much other work to do with the upgrade.
The eSAF guides have all now been transferred into this template – http://elp.northumbria.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/orgs/ORG1/help-esaf/index.html* – and the Analytics works as I had hoped allowing us to track which guides are being most read. The template can easily be applied to the student guides now, but the content of those all needs to be revised for Service Pack 16, or ‘April Release’, or whatever Blackboard decide the new naming scheme will be, and that will be a massive task.
Still on my to-do list is getting the nested menu working which will be required for the staff guides.
* I know what you’re thinking, and yup we could use a short URL for this one too.