Data Analytics to Support Learning and Teaching

Published Jun-25-18

Brainstorming activities to further develop a university initiative that is exploring how data and data analytics can best serve students and teachers.

University of British Columbia, Canada

The Story:

Data Analytics to Support Learning and Teaching The education sector like many others is embracing the power and potential of data and data analytics. It's early days but with more courses going online there is a lot of research to be done to figure out the best ways to use data to support students and teachers.

One way to get a lot of interested parties to discuss ideas, try some new ones and generally experiment is with a hackathon. These short bursts of intellectual and creative activity can provide deep insights and potentially new products within a very short space of time.

Improving Teaching and Learning

The annual Learning Analytics Hackathon sponsored by the University of British Columbia is an opportunity for students, researchers and other interested parties to explore how data can empower students and improve the processes of teaching and learning. “Learning analytics can be applied to answer questions about education that aren’t always as obvious at first glance,” said Johannes Harmse, UBC Master of Data Science graduate student.

The 2018 event was the third such hackathon in the series and it attracted more than 100 participants. They were given access to anonymized open learning data from Harvard and the Open University (UK) which showed how students interact with their courses, such as the learning resources they use, how often they log on and their grades.

The hackathon was also a chance for students to come up with their own designs for apps and programs that could feed into the university's Learning Analytics project. This initiative is taking a data-driven approach to improving student learning as the university increases its number of online learning tools and applications. But more importantly, the hackathon was an exercise in brainstorming and creativity. It also gave participants a better understanding of how data can benefit education and an opportunity to learn useful new tools and techniques.

For example, one student came away with a better understanding of R, a statistical computing and graphics software environment used for data analysis and visualization.
He learned how to create graphs that let users explore the connections between two variables. Meanwhile, one group developed an animated circle plot to visualize student engagement within a course, as measured by the number of clicks. Team members expressed the hope that they could develop future iterations of the tool to show detailed information about which activities students are engaging with and how that changes over time.

Unconstrained Thinking and Creativity

There were no pre-determined objectives or constraints at the hackathon so many participants felt freer to examine the data holistically, think about the information that could be extracted from it and how these insights could be put to good use.

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