It is to be expected that organizations face all sorts of concerns when it comes to introducing metrics and indicators into their operations. But none makes it harder to turn people into believers than taking up a potentially burdensome and costly endeavor, only to realize it made things worse than they were before. This isn’t just your worst nightmare; it is a real scenario uncovered by Stanford scientists at the Center for Education Policy Analysis.
A large-scale field experiment with 6,516 higher ed students from one undisclosed university revealed that usage of CARTA, a learning analytics visual dashboard (not unlike Moodle’s varied portfolio), was generally associated with a lower GPA. A noteworthy finding, and a worrisome one at the headline level. Practical limitations of the research aside, the decisions made in the content and form of analytics presented to students are worth a deeper look.
While the general relationship between dashboard usage and GPA is negative, certain groups drive the correlation forward. Namely, the link is stronger in underclassmen, and even more striking in students with a history of low GPA. It is unclear whether students are familiar with personal learning performance dashboards and whether they see them in a positive, motivating light.
This unexpected finding deserves further replication across more diverse samples, precisely because it is so surprising.
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