MOOC provider EdX was the choice for CurtinX, the top Western Australia university online branch, to launch “Analytics for the Classroom Teacher,” along with courses on Human Rights, Digital Marketing, and Mining. (Actual, coal-harvesting mining, not the other kind.)
The “Analytics for the Classroom Teacher” course is self-paced and introductory. For many reasons, it is less concerned with cutting-edge thinking on quantified performance monitoring, and more with presenting analytics in an inviting, good-natured tone. And even though the course has been up for over a year now, it is precisely the tone of the message which makes this offer so relevant for the learning and EdTech community today.
While the business of analytics in education expands, and the ecosystem grows into a larger number of product categories, the impact on learning outcomes is not as clear-cut as expected. The fast evolution of a market, in a way that does not lead to a widespread higher standard of living―in our case, learning―suggests that buyers of analytics products for learning and education may not be acting in their best, performance-based interests. Rather, they are following more “exuberant” reasons.
Michael Feldstein, EdTech veteran, sees a link between increasingly sophisticated tools, a wave of excitement about them that sometimes ends up as dependence, and the inevitable “bust of the bubble.” It happened in the financial industry, it happened in polls, and he worries a familiar blow is coming to EdTech. But in this case, the prescription is simple: make sure you understand what the analytics product you bought does.
Curtin’s self-paced free offering provides a hands-on, instant-results approach to the practice of Analytics. From the beginning, it emphasizes how results, measured by how they impact the learning experience, are the only valid criteria to assess technology. Teachers are encouraged to have an open mind about new tools and models, but select them with caution and pragmatism.
The course includes five modules, each one with hands-on activities to highlight the relationship between teaching and technology. Each section provides a wealth of knowledge and resources, but if they needed summarizing into practical keys, it would go something like this:
- Identify the parts of your decision-making process in the classroom and understand its strengths and weaknesses before buying or even trying an Analytics solution.
- Similarly, find the issues and room for opportunity in your classroom lesson plans. If you know the right questions to ask, you can take advantage of an analytics tool to improve your teaching. Otherwise, the tool may be taking advantage of you by telling you all the ways that your teaching is wrong and how the tool alone can fix it.
- If you find room for an analytics tool to deliver results, start simple and proceed iteratively. Make sure there are positive effects identifiable in your students before buying in further. (Using simple analytics to get to know your students better is a very positive effect!)
- Make your own teaching practice the first line of intervention, measurement, and improvement through analytics. Are you paying enough attention to the right things? Where are your efforts best rewarded in terms of positive effects on students? Compare your progress to yourself previously, not to other teachers or tools. (Try not to measure yourself against a YouTube video.)
- Finally, if you are adopting an analytics tool as standard practice, or you are in charge of evaluating technology purchases, build your own analytics evaluation tool to support your decisions. Whether this is a sheet, chart, algorithm, or checklist, the important thing is that it works for you.
The current offering of the course will end on October 6th, 2017. Instructors recommend taking one module per week with an estimated workload of four hours each. Even though it is self-paced, it features a discussion forum that will stay active throughout the course’s run.