Daltai (Irish for “Students”) is a collaborative project funded by Ireland’s National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning, which aimed to increase digital proficiencies amongst staff and students in higher education, particularly in relation to the effective use of learning data to promote student success. Hailed as one of the key trends which is expected to significantly impact on higher education in the coming years, learning analytics refers to “the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about the progress of learners and the contexts in which learning takes place” (JISC 2017). Recognising the potential of learning analytics for supporting student success, since 2016 the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning has prioritised capacity-building in this strategic area, resulting in “Online Resources for Learning Analytics (ORLA)” and their sector-wide” Data-Enabled Student Success Initiative (DESSI)“.
The ultimate goal of learning analytics is to enhance teaching and learning provision and broader supports for students: but how do we achieve this? As educators, how do we use learning data to inform and enhance our own approaches to teaching and assessment? As institutions, how do we make best use of learning analytics to enhance student support and promote student success? Daltai developed an evidenced-based strategy and implementation plan that addressed the professional development requirements of higher education staff and students in relation to the effective use of learning data to support learning, teaching and assessment processes.
The project partners were Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin) and Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT).
Needs analysis for this CPD used a mixed-methods approach, combining collection and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data. Firstly, ten semi-structured focus groups with staff and students were conducted across two Irish Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), TU Dublin and GMIT (37 students and 40 staff). The purpose of focus groups was to identify preferences and needs in relation to the training required to engage with learning analytics. Secondly, surveys for staff and students were developed that covered points raised during focus groups, to increase the level of concordance and reliability gained in the qualitative phase. Surveys were completed by 1,390 students and 190 staff from across Irish HEIs.
Focus groups and survey protocols were based on the SHEILA data collection instruments, with some additional prompts and items added to collect data on training needs.
The resulting CPD framework presents three levels of training. Level 1, knowing, focuses on ethics and privacy, risks and limitations of data, appropriate uses of data for different stakeholders, and the role of learning analytics policy. Level 2, using and practicing, focuses on data interpretation, data access, data quality, and using data for feedback. Level 3, taking action, focuses on action and reflection. The framework differentiates between the training requirements of different stakeholder groups, namely students, academic staff and professional services staff. The full framework is available on our resources page.
Implementation of such a framework would need to consider concerns expressed by staff over increased workload, and a requirement for short training resources backed up with ongoing support from a learning analytics function. Effective use of data requires ongoing support in multiple related areas including the technical skills needed to process data, the interpretive skills needed to make sense of data within a wider, nuanced context, and enacting appropriate interventions to enhance student support. There is a balance to be struck between what can reasonably be expected of staff and students in terms of data literacy and what additional support should be provided.
A sample of training resources enacting elements of the Daltai CPD framework will shortly be available on https://www.cpdlearnonline.ie/, an open access training repository hosted by GMIT. See our resources page for the full project report and other publications.
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