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Responding to Change: Learning Analytics and "The Pivot"

Events this spring forced us to respond to a rapidly changing set of demands in the delivery of education. In reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for physical distancing, higher education institutions had to—with almost zero warning—pivot from traditional in-class student/teacher interaction as the primary learning experience to entirely online or virtualized learning, whether in the form of video web conferencing or development of digital learning content and resources.

Not surprisingly, institutions with healthy digital learning ecosystems were able to make that transition smoother than if they did not have those standards-based infrastructures in place.

This includes things like leveraging LTI-Advantage to pull together new and expanded-use tools with learning platforms. Another area that institutions with robust ecosystems saw benefit was the ability to quickly leverage data for analysis around engagement—finding out which students were making the transition to online, which were not, and why weren't they?

The higher education community may finally be cresting the hill of learning analytics. The current situation may demonstrate the practical, actionable value of data in serving the needs of students, faculty, and administration.

“There'd often been this question in the past, of "Well, what use is learning analytics?" And the answer here is to give faculty some quick curated reports that help them understand how students are doing in the move to online learning. Because we were capturing all of our LMS data, we were able to design reports with the click of a button where faculty could immediately see any student that hadn't logged in during the last week and ask them to reach out to those students.
Jack Suess, CIO and Vice President of Information Technology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

The anecdotal evidence is borne out by the results of EDUCAUSE's Quick Poll Results on student success analytics. Even relatively basic learning analytics, leveraging data around what tools are launched and by whom, and how those tools are used, can provide significant insight into gaps in engagement and even potential equity issues: maybe a student doesn't have reliable internet access at home, or was relying on visits to the library for access to digital resources. How does an institution serve these students in a virtualized learning system?

Get Started with Learning Analytics

Initiatives like LTI Insights, specifically designed to capture Tool Launch and Tool Usage data as part of the Caliper specification, provide a discrete, straightforward way for institutions to launch analytics initiatives that can pave the way for broader, more comprehensive learning analytics down the road. Request the implementation of the Tool Launch and Tool Usage profiles from your edtech suppliers so your institution can better achieve insight into what is happening in your ecosystem and respond to emerging gaps and other equity and access issues. IMS is working with the community to provide reference implementations, best practices, webinars, and additional guidance to assist with building this foundation.

We’re also re-launching the Learning Data and Analytics Innovation Leadership Network. In this forum, institutional members define the real-world strategic needs for learning analytics, focus on the immediate requirements that have emerged in recent months, understand how those needs are met with current standards and solutions, and find the gaps so that we can provide guidance on working with what already exists and provide the user stories and use cases to address what doesn’t.

Institutional members are encouraged to sign up for the Analytics ILN and make your voice heard!

And though we’re just in the initial planning stages, there is little question that all of the topics above (and more!) will be part of the IMS Student Success Summit in November, in whatever form that eventually emerges. Keep an eye out for announcements. View IMS resources to help you get started with learning analytics on your campus. To get involved with the IMS work on analytics, join an existing project group or ILN, or contribute user stories and requirements, contact Cary Brown, director of higher education programs, anytime!