Last week I mentioned that The Horizon Report predicted that Learning Analytics was on the five year horizon for Higher Education. Whilst that timescale might be true for mass adoption (and some of the people management changes that will need to go with it), there are already pioneers using today's business intelligence technologies to help them to build Learning Analytics systems.
John Paul College, a high school in Brisbane, is one of those - they've created a system (in partnership with their Microsoft partner Wardy IT) which allows them to forecast learning outcomes and behavioural outcomes, giving them the chance to apply early intervention with things like tailored teaching for students. Scott Carpenter at the College summarised where they were originally:
We wanted to bring together the many dimensions of a student’s learning experience – measuring internal and external academic elements; tracking pastoral care and behavioural issues; and monitoring the other influences that may manifest themselves as behavioural change in and out of the classroom.
We had made some progress towards delivering many of these components, but we discovered that the individual parts were creating a drain on resources. This generated operational versus strategic solution delivery decisions, and in many instances the operational side won. We needed a way to make better use of our information.
Like most large schools, John Paul College had a number of heterogeneous systems from previous IT decisions. These systems created duplicated processes, inconsistent data and multiple views of the school’s information.
What they have now is a master data repository that contains information about students, their results, behavioural traits, learning styles and many other individual attributes. And the intelligence in it allows them to cut through the data and provide insights and reports about future student performance, which teachers can access through Excel.
The analysis capability allows JPC to query its information or make self-directed inquiries to extract more meaning from the data it holds. After four years of analysing the data flowing through the organisation and capturing that of value, JPC now has an affordable and integrated system that allows teachers and administrators to easily interpret relevant information, and make it accessible when decisions need to be made.
Scott Carpenter says anyone can make decisions based on gut feel. But when such decisions can be supported by facts, teachers and educators can be more confident about their decisions.
A teacher knows which students are performing poorly and which ones are doing well. We can pull together many dimensions to provide a fuller and more accurate picture of a student. That picture is part of a bigger puzzle. How a student behaves in class may reflect how they respond to a particular teacher’s style.
We can recognise these behavioural patterns and identify the triggers for better learning. For example, some students don’t respond well to direct teacher pressure. Others are auditory learners. Getting this right for each student can have huge positive impacts on their performance over time.
We have been entering this type of information into our systems for five years and we needed to bring it all together to create the full picture. This also helps teachers when they come into a new environment. They have some idea of what they are facing.
One of the key assets that JPC had, like many other schools, is a database of observations, performance data, assessment results, behavioural logs etc. The key for them was their ability to link that all together, and draw conclusions and make active interventions using it.
You can also read more background in this IT Wire article