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Can analytics provide support and solutions in challenging situations?

The coronavirus has forced several educational institutions from basic education to higher education to take quite a digital leap in recent days. On a very fast schedule we switched to distance learning and working. Some higher education institutions have reported transferring to online learning in just a few weeks instead of previously planned months. Common worries of teachers and administrators in this situation are securing the continuation of the learning process, as well as ensuring that learning outcomes are achieved in digital environments. At the same time learning in digital environments from home requires better self-management skills from students as learning opportunities are more flexible and less supervised. Students who previously used help and direction from learning support may also have lost some of the resources.  

In these challenging times learning analytics can be utilized to become eyes and ears of a teacher and to support students’ learning process. By tracking students’ actions in learning environments and providing meaningful summaries and visualization to teachers, learning analytics can help teachers keep a constant overview of what is happening in the digital classroom, which students are progressing with their assignments and which ones need more help and personal attention from the teacher.   

Students on the other hand may benefit from more direct learning analytics support in a form of content suggestions and reminders to facilitate time management. Learning analytics may help keeping track of the study path, providing a track of completed studies and giving a structured overview of what courses still have to be mastered. All of the mentioned earlier could provide support and a sense of structure needed in one’s studies in challenging situations.   

Just as everyone else, our project has also adapted to the state of emergency in the country. Project meetings are now as well happening virtually so project partners can still collaborate successfully and do their work remotely from home. As we planned to have piloting sessions this spring, they are now transferred to purely online piloting and we will try to reach students online so they could try out and evaluate first the simulation and then the student dashboard as well. Teacher tutor piloting has also moved online, as teacher tutors now have instructions to carry out tutoring sessions with students using digital communication means.  

With our project team we are very happy to help create and develop tools and ways to utilize learning analytics that could benefit students and teachers in their everyday work and in extraordinary circumstances. Although the situation is hard for all educational communities there are resources and opportunities that teachers, students and researchers can utilize to succeed in their endeavors.   

Egle Gedrimiene ja Henna Määttä

University of Oulu

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