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Learning Analytics as a Studies Guidance Tool

At the University of Oulu, the personal tutor teacher (PSP-teachers, teacher-tutors) acts as a supporter of students’ study progress and as a guide to study paths. The personal tutor teacher is an important close contact for students in their university studies, and his/her duties include assisting the student with the development of a personal study plan, tracking student progress, and guiding the student on career advancement and career choices. Personal tutor teachers are typically lecturers, university teachers, or researchers in the same discipline and carry out their own teaching duties alongside their own work. 

As part of the Analytics AI project, the University of Oulu is developing analytical tools for personal tutor teachers, aimed at facilitating the monitoring of individual studies progress in real-time. The goal of the visualisations being developed is to give the tutor teacher a clear idea of the student's progress in relation to the student's own study plan. The tools can be used, for example, in preparing for a counselling meeting, during the counselling meeting, and more generally in studies follow-up. As we develop new tools for learning analytics, we are also researching and developing practices that leverage knowledge. In addition to the creation of tools, we need to further understand who are the tools users, and for what purposes and in which situations the tools can be used.

Next, Oulu will test the functionality of a visualization tool under the guidance of second-year students and tutor teachers. The aim is to understand how the tool can be used as a conveyor of knowledge and a basis for discussion about the progress of the studies and the students’ own study goals. One essential part of the pilot study is to create user instructions and guidance to both user groups on how to use the new tools to support studies’ guidance. As we collect feedback on the comprehensibility and meaningfulness of the views, we gain insights into the different user experiences with the tool. In order for the technology to be introduced and deployed in a sustainable fashion, it is essential to understand its operating environment.

From the student's perspective, it is important to develop tools that, as part of their guidance and study practices, support them in making choices about studying and planning. For joint student and teacher tutor meetings, it is important that the developed visualisation tools promote high-quality student-tutor interaction, rather than technical review or data mining. In that way, the tools developed can help establish real and meaningful student-tutor interaction instances. 


Anni Silvola and Riku Hietaniemi, University of Oulu