In his recent article in The TechEdvocate, Matthew Lynch emphasized the way learning analytics can make even mass teaching an individual experience. Learning analytics enable learning systems to suggest learning activities, which match the preferences and challenge level of each individual learner. Personalized recommendations help to engage and support learners.
But let’s take a step back. Learning analytics may be more prevailing than we think and their importance is emphasized in this time and age. You may consider learning analytics as just representing a part in continuum of using data in digital environments for something other than offering users effective advertisement. However, the world around is changing in a rapid pace. Learning analytics may be a key player in making it more comprehensible.
Learning has become more and more diverse. While we usually relate learning to schools, more and more learning takes place outside schools and institutions. Rather the places in which we learn things are becoming all the more diverse. Schools are certainly important, but so are our personal interests, social encounters, different interest groups, freetime projects and many others. Not to mention all the online possibilities. MOOCs, digital learning games, online communities, web’s information resources and various others are offering nearly limitless opportunities for free or for a small fee.
Low cost digital resources are an example of non-formal educational resources, that is, planned educational activities outside formal schooling. In addition, learning also takes place in informal situations, such as personal projects or taking part in a new community and learning its’ ways and rules. Both of these categories complement the formal education offered by institutions. A smart learner takes full advantage of all these possibilities.
The bad news is that although we may consider ourselves as as smart learners, we are not able to learn without proper support. The world of limitless learning opportunities is both a blessing and a curse. While the Internet may be a source of all information, if not knowledge, it lacks control mechanism and feedback possibilities, which makes it a tricky place for learning. One can pursue things that seem interesting and dive into the world of learning, but we need feedback to be able to see how we are doing and where we need to focus on.
At the moment and increasingly in short term, learning analytics based support is be able to give appropriate feedback, supporting tasks and suggestions to learners. As a result, it is possible to reduce drop outs with personal support for example when a student is lacking background information a specific task presumes.
Increasingly during the next few years we can use recommendation systems based on learning analytics and natural language processing to suggest learners with fellow students interested in similar topics, which could encourage shared discussions and knowledge building. It is also possible to offer machine created quizzes to give learners an opportunity to test their knowledge on any given topic.
In the long term technology enhanced learning could very well accelerate all kinds of learning. A digital learning environment, which learns from all of it’s participants, their interactions, understands the contents of learning materials and is able to provide may not take the necessary pain and challenge of learning away. But it can surely pave the way for a wave for motivated learners in and outside formal education.
Dr Topi Litmanen works as a Chief Educational Scientist in Claned Group. He is responsible for ensuring, that the pedagogical aspects of the Claned are based on latest learning research. Topi makes sure that Claned customers get the needed support for meeting their digital learning needs.