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Learning analytics course at the University of Oulu 

Egle Gedrimiene, Suvi Kauppi, Jenni Kunnari

University of Oulu 

The multidisciplinary team from the faculties of Education and Information Technology and Electrical Engineering got together to create and implement a new online learning analytics course at the University of Oulu. The goal of the course was to offer students multidisciplinary information on learning analytics applications in different contexts, and to develop and test the materials and design of the course. 

The course consisting of 5 modules and 10 ECTS credits introduced the field of learning analytics and covered such topics as students’ engagement, teacher and guidance perspectives in the use of learning analytics tools, principles of working with big data and big data ethics. After the completion of the introductory course, students were able to select the modules they wanted to continue further. Each class in the modules consisted of a pre task, topic presented by the teacher in the class, and a group and individual assignment.  

Students’ feedback at the end of the course was encouraging, as overall the experience of teaching and studying on this course module seemed to be positive. When asked which elements supported students’ learning the best from their own point of view, they mentioned for example the content of the course, materials as chosen articles and lecture recordings that they could go back to, interactions and discussions with teachers and other students and reflection tasks they were given.  

The teacher interactions (on and off class), the learning resources, group and reflection tasks as well as the structure of the individual lessons. The reflection questions were simple yet thought-provoking. What I really liked and deeply appreciate is the openness with which each teacher has engage with the students and differing points of view. For this, as a student, it makes me feel safer to convey my thoughts. The individual feedback received at the end of the course (not only pass/fail or rubric oriented) was quite comprehensive and motivated me as a learner consistently. 

On the other hand, learning tasks were also mentioned as things to be improved: some students wished for example more hands-on practices with one or more LA tools, more individual assignments rather than group assignments and quizzes for checking if they have understood what they have studied. There were also wishes for some Finnish material for the support for their learning. 

A custom tailored LA tool is necessary for the course, so you can teach LA using LA. Moodle is kind of LA, but it lacks the good features of an effective LA tool. Another module can be added which would be entirely practical where one student will prepare a lecture / test using LA tool, deliver it to his/her group and the group member will comment on how good the lecture was. 

“It would be nice to have some reading material (or videos perhaps?) in Finnish, because the whole subject area is unfamiliar to me. It was quite challenging at some points to understand the terminology, lectures or the articles, because the vocabulary was new. 

After reflecting on the students’ feedback, the course teachers Anni Silvola, Egle Gedrimiene (Educational Psychology research group), Satu Tamminen and Lauri Tuovinen (Biomimetics and Intelligent Systems Group, BISG research group) and the course administrator Suvi Kauppi are currently discussing various possibilities to further develop the course materials and design. 

The course was created and piloted after receiving innovation funding from the University of Oulu. The course was offered to University of Oulu and Open University students during the April-August period in 2021. 

The work in AnalytiikkaÄly-project (AnalyticsAI, 2018–2021) continues as AnalytiikkaÄly-Etäohjaus-project (AnalyticsAI-Distance guidance, 2021–2022), funded by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. The project includes seven partners and is led by the University of Oulu. The partners are Aalto University, Tampere University, University of Turku, LUT-University, University of Lapland, and University of Eastern Finland. The focus is still on learning analytics, but the emphasis is on distance learning and guidance. We aim to understand how the learning analytics tools could be applied as a part of distance guidance. Also, we research and develop the conditions for guidance with learning analytics. Follow our website, Twitter, and Facebook for latest news and events on learning analytics! 

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