The Society for Research in Learning Analytics (SoLAR) defines learning analytics as "the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs".
Data on students’ activities and interactions with learning resources and administrative systems can be used by higher education institutions to drive interventions aimed at improving retention, learning engagement, and efficient use of resources.
Increasingly, whole-of-institution approaches are being pursued to integrate data from a wide-range of sources and provide a broader and deeper view of the student experience.
However, in the higher education landscape, there is still a sense that learning and academic analytics, while filled with great potential, has not yet had widespread or deep impact. Institutional analytics initiatives tend to focus predominantly on students at risk and other administrative concerns; there is a limited focus on student learning.
The University of Melbourne aims to frame its learning analytics work within a strong educational or learning theory, and move the focus of learning analytics towards learning, referring not so much to learning outcomes, but learning processes. One step in this direction is the Loop tool project.
The Loop tool project
The University has invested in further development of the Completing the Loop project (a sector-wide project funded by the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching), with the aim of providing meaningful student behavioural data to academics and improve teaching and learning practices.
The streamlined and optimised code developed as part of this project removes administrative and academic overhead and the work has been contributed back to the community via an open source licence for other institutions to use and modify as they wish. The code is available on GitHub.
We recognise that there is no one-size fits all solution for learning analytics and this is one tool that we hope will add to the sector's toolkit.