Thursday, January 20, 2011

Learning analytics and how it differs from business intelligence

I'm taking an online course in Learning Analytics :

The course documentation defines learning analytics as: “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.” I'm finding it challenging but fascinating and timely.

Everything I've read about Learning Analytics so far says that it has grown out of Business Intelligence and Web Analytics. It's a growing field and, according to Baker and Yacef, 2010, may bring "to educational research the mathematical and scientific rigor that similar methods have previously brought to cognitive psychology and biology." That sounds like something I need to know about.

But back to this analogy with business analytics. Consider a parallel universe in which Amazon is run like an ancient HE institution. Here's a guided tour from the Director of Sales: "We keep Karon's Name and address over here in this database and the records of the books she's bought this academic year over here in this computer. The two computers can't talk to each other but a secretary has access to both so that's OK. The marketing department can apply for access to the database of books sold this year if they wish but they'll have to ask the secretary to give them records from previous years because the data in the database is deleted every September and the secretary keeps copies of old records in a number of Excel spreadsheets on her C:drive. Of course, Karon can't see a list of what she's bought in the past. Why would she want to do that? She can see the data from some special offers we ran last year because it's been put in the WebCT gradebook for some reason. We must make sure that doesn't happen again."

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