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Engaging the academics and students – making the promise of learning analytics real.

Moving forward on the learning analytics journey is exciting yet challenging.  We are all building systems, exploring the possibilities and trying to make the promise of learning analytics a reality in our institutions.   Yet, much of the work to date has been driven by institutional agendas and priorities which can sometimes challenge our ability to make it relevant for academics and students.

Drawing together work from several national and international research projects (West et al., 2015; West et al, in press), this presentation will explore some of the challenges of ‘readiness’ for learning analytics from an institutional, academic/teaching and student perspective.  At an institutional level things like technical infrastructure, institutional positioning and policy frameworks are relatively easy to put in place in comparison to the work that is required to engage academics and students in the use and ongoing development of learning analytics.  While many academics know little about learning analytics they can identify the information and data points that would be useful to them.  Exploring these data points can help us to focus our attention on providing the types of reports that our stakeholders see as useful.  Similarly students have a general idea of what would be useful to them as well as their concerns which should inform our development.

While bringing the various stakeholders on the journey with us is challenging, such exploration and discussion also provides opportunities for linking learning analytics with educational quality improvement, educational research and pedagogy in a systematic way.  Exploring the kinds of information academics and students are seeking can guide us on our journey and provide opportunities to move discussion and thinking forward.  Drawing on work from two institutions, the presentation will also provide some suggestions for how this can be conceptualised to show a value proposition for academics and students.

Deborah West

Deborah West is Pro Vice Chancellor (Learning and Teaching Innovation) at Flinders University in Australia.  With a disciplinary background in social work, her research has encompassed both her discipline and learning and teaching.  In recent years, her focus has been on the use of technology to support learning and teaching and in particular learning analytics and has published extensively in this field.  Operationally, she has been very involved in the development of learning analytics at Charles Darwin University where she was Director of Learning and Teaching and is now applying this experience to the Flinders University environment.

Major learning analytics projects include a commissioned project for the Australian Government on the development of institutional learning analytics capacity to support student retention; an Innovative Research Universities funded international project on learning analytics readiness in Malaysia and Australia and a current Innovative Research Universities project on students’ views and understanding of learning analytics.  She is also actively involved in work related to ethical issues in this field.


West, D., Luzeckyj, A., Searle, B., Toohey, D. & Price, R. (in press). The use of learning analytics to support improvements in teaching practice. Melbourne: Innovative Research Universities.

West, D., Huijser, H., Heath, D., Lizzio, A., Miles, C., Toohey, D., Searle, B., & Bronnimann, J. (2015). Learning analytics: Assisting universities with student retention. Sydney: Australian Office for Learning and Teaching.

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