Author:Jeremy Knox (The University of Edinburgh)
Paper short abstract:
The field of ‘learning analytics’ is gaining significant traction in education, often driven by uncritical government and corporate research agendas. This paper describes the ‘LARC’: an interdisciplinary project investigating critical and student-focused educational data analysis.
Paper long abstract:
Education has become an important site for computational data analysis, and the burgeoning field of 'learning analytics' is gaining significant traction, motivated by the proliferation of online courses and large enrolment numbers. However, while this 'big data' and its analysis continue to be hyped across academic, government and corporate research agendas, critical and interdisciplinary approaches to educational data analysis are in short supply. Driven by narrow disciplinary areas in computer science, learning analytics is not only 'blackboxed', - in other words a propensity to 'focus only on its inputs and outputs and not on its internal complexity' (Latour 1999, p304), but also abstracted and distanced from the activities of education itself. This methodological estrangement may be particularly problematic in an educational context where the fostering of critical awareness is valued. The first half of this paper will describe three ways in which we can understand this 'distancing', and how it is implicated in enactments of power within the material conditions of education: the institutional surveilling of student activity; the mythologizing of empirical objectivity; and the privileging of prediction. The second half of the paper will describe the development of a small scale and experimental learning analytics project undertaken at the University of Edinburgh that sought to explore some of these issues. Entitled the Learning Analytics Report Card (LARC), the project investigated playful ways of offering student choice in the analytics process, and the fostering of critical awareness of issues related to data analysis in education.
Critical data studies