Early this week I attended the second meeting of the QAA Scotland Enhancement Theme learning analytics cluster, hosted by Ainsley Hainey, Brian Green and Helen Gough (University of Strathclyde). The enhancement themes are a key distinguishing aspect of Scottish HE in relation to quality measures around learning teaching and sectoral sharing of practice. Staff and students actively collaborate across the sector during the three year theme life-cycles and they are a really important part of university life.
The current theme is Evidence for Enhancement: Improving the Student Experience. Learning analytics is one of three community clusters, the others being the creative disciplines and employability and distance learning. From the names of the clusters alone you can start to get an idea of how broadly the theme is investigating the notion of evidence for enhancement. This is not just a numbers exercise!
Unfortunately I missed the first cluster workshop earlier this year, however the outputs from it formed the basis for the discussions on how to progress the work of the cluster, the most valuable outputs relating to focus on, and to start to scope out areas of work for student interns.
Quite a lot of the discussions yesterday came back to the need for appropriate definitions and clarity of scope for any learning analytics initiative. This was something we certainly we very aware of when we developed our learning analytics policy, and we used the SoLAR definition
the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs
Anne Marie Scott, from the University of Edinburgh also reminded us of the principles that Edinburgh have developed, along with their data governance structures. Very useful stuff indeed. It’s also worth looking at Anne Marie’s recent blog post on student dashboards.
Whilst there is an undeniable interest in learning analytics across the Scottish sector, uptake and progress is still patchy with many of us still at the very early stages of work. The Enhancement Themes approach does give us a very distinctive, and in many ways a far richer, approach to quality measures in relation to learning and teaching. It looks like this will continue in terms of the outputs of the learning analytics collective cluster. I’m really looking forward to being involved in this work as it moves forward over the next few months.