What the numbers don’t tell you. A learning analytics case.

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Lane, Brid
Issue Date
Dublin Business School
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High level learning analytics projects require expensive resources. Nonetheless, much can be done with Moodle logs. Some lecturers populate Moodle module pages with much of interest, and students’ access to that content might (or might not) align with the students’ grades on the module. The researcher evaluated the Moodle logs for three successive cohorts (all run in one academic year) of a Master’s-level, classroom-based, 12-week cloud computing module. Access patterns were evaluated, in particular, when students logged in, and what content they accessed. Findings indicated a disappointing picture in terms of student performance. It’s reasonable to expect all students to access all lecture slides. However, on average, only 62% of the lecture slides were viewed. Average viewing of other content items in each block came in at just 24%. Addressing the correlation of grades with the percentage of the lecture notes files viewed, and with the total numbers of views on these files revealed a most disconcerting picture. For example, in the second cohort a correlation of -0.64 was found between the overall grade for the module with the percentage of the lecture slides viewed on Moodle. It would be particularly easy for a school’s management team to respond by e.g. suggesting that lecture notes are not be put on Moodle. However, this is to take a shallow, surface reaction. A key conclusion from the research is that numbers on their own can be hide a wealth of explanatory detail that is not always visible to those outside the classroom from which the numbers are generated.