Further findings show that 80% of FE students would be happy to have their learning data collected if it improved their grades, and more than half would be happy to have their learning data collected if it stopped them from dropping out.
This block started with my concerns for students receiving “bad news” via learning analytics and how they might react. I was concerned about how stats may be delivered to students and the potential impact of this information. I saw this reaction on a small scale this week when the tweetorial analytics were released where some of my classmates described shock, annoyance and even anger when seeing a top ten league table that they weren’t in. This, however, was a minor exercise which didn’t feed into any final assignment grades or directly affect the possible pass or fail of the course.
It was during this period that I came across this article about the work being done between 50 education institutions to create an app for learning analytics which could be an aid to both students and teachers. The subheader grabbed my attention as it quoted that 80% of student wanted learning analytics to be carried out and wanted to have this information available to them, this seemed to go against my initial concerns, however on closer inspection, the student seem to want the analytics in all the positive ways, if it improved their grades, if it prevented them fro dropping out. However, there is no thought in that sub header to the students who wouldn’t be receiving good news via the analytics app, so I am afraid I am still on the lower rungs of the cautious ladder when it comes to analytics and information we provide to students and its purpose.
Turning this week, to community, I have taken 5 minutes to breathe and consider community and education. Of course, the very easy route to take is to consider students and learning communities, but there are way more communities in education than the obvious.
I decided to think about how my course activities this week could both be digital, experiential and help me to relate to a community that I work with but am not a member of so that I can better understand their needs, wants and worries. So this week, I am trying to go fully online and I’m not printing reading material. I should add some background so that this makes sense, currently, I work as a learning technologist at the University of Edinburgh, so it is my job to support the implementation of new tools and support the faculty using them. A recent change to tools and procedures has been to move submission of assignments and the marking and feedback for those assignments to a completely digital and online format. The decision to do this being based on feedback in the National Student Survey and a push from EUSA the student union on behalf of students of the university. It was said that the student community wanted to move to submitting their assignments digitally to reduce the stress and expense of printing these and that they requested that their grades and feedback be returned electronically to speed up the process, reduce the chances of valuable work being lost in the vast amount of student work being processed and of course for the convenience that not all students are onsite to collect their paper feedback at the time it is released.
Although there is no doubt that the willingness of the university to make changes based on student feedback is a great thing, the student community is not the only one affected by these changes. The academic staff who grade and feedback on assignments are directly affected as are the support staff who process the submissions and deal with student queries. Both groups are being asked to modify the tried and tested procedures that they already have in place and in a very quick turnaround time, create and implement new procedures. One of which is that there will be no more printed material to read/grade. For teaching staff who may be reading and grading 100 student papers, asking them to move completely to a digital environment has implications for VDU health and safety, the convenience of offline work and changing procedure they may have been following for a lengthy career already.
As the learning technologist, I portray the positives, I’m the encouraging face who supports the people making these changes and tries to make this as painless as possible, but this doesn’t require me to move out of my comfort zone, so how can I truly understand the needs and concerns of this community? Therefore, I made the decision that for at least block 2, I will no longer be printing my readings and working offline. I will be using Adobe DC to read and annotate my readings digitally and Evernote for note taking. This means a complete change to my preferred processes and allows me to experience something close to that of the teaching community I work with.
I hope to challenge my desire to print reading material and ask is it better to read offline or is it just a comfort that I do out of habit or assumptions which are incorrect?
Will this test change how I work in the future?
Or will this digital educationalist decide sometimes, technology isn’t the best policy?
I came across this article this week and it started me thinking about when technology use crosses the line to becoming an enhancement. As a forty something, I remember not being allowed a calculator in a maths test because calculators were seen as an “enhancement” and not fair on those using their own ability. These days, however, the school provides calculators for use in exams. So are they now seen as tools and no longer an enhancement or something which belittles ability? Or are we now used to these tools and what they allow us to do that we now expect more and therefore the tools have become essential?
As someone with a learning disability, I have heard a lot about “equalising” opportunities, in other words using tools or behaviours to give someone with a disability an equal chance to those without. For me this means I wear coloured glasses or use coloured filters to help me read but could this also be viewed as benefiting from technology and not getting by on my own skills or abilities? With me, it’s a bit more subtle than a paralympic runner wearing blades. Clearly, they would not be able to compete and in some cases even run without the aid of technology so I’m hesitant to accept this technology labeled as an enhancement but if we take this same concept into the classroom, one student with access to an iPad during class and another without. The student with the iPad would clearly have an advantage if they could search the internet, electronic libraries etc to access information where the other student didn’t have access to anything other than their own memory and notes.