Is there a link between managerialisation and learning analytics?

Another task for today is to put some finishing touches on an application for an OLT grant around learning analytics. The project – some early thinking shown here – is coming together nicely, but could always be better. Some good feedback from Rob Phillips reminded me about what the Horizon Report for Australian Tertiary Education (Johnson et al, 2012, p. 1) has to say about analytics in Oz higher ed

Experts all over the globe see learning analytics as important, but the advisory board see this technology in 2012 as more imminent than both the New Zealand experts and the global higher education group…In fact, this report marks the first time learning analytics has been voted into the near-term horizon, indicating that Australia is well-positioned for leadership in this area. Secondary research supported the conclusion that Australian institutions are particularly interested in finding new ways to measure student performance, ideally in real-time.

I’m wondering whether my impression that Australian universities are amongst the most “managerialised” of tertiary institutions is a factor in the imminent arrival of learning analytics?

In the context of this question, I found this quote from the Oz Horizon report particularly interesting (Johnson et al, 2012, p. 4) – my emphasis added

The Australian and the New Zealand panels both agreed the pervasive resistance of academics to the personal adoption and use of new technologies or techniques themselves is a continuing barrier to institutional leadership with any technology.

I can’t help wondering if the causality here is the wrong way around. Is it perhaps the attempts at and methods employed by “institutional leadership with any technology” that is creating the “pervasive resistance of academics”?

That’s certainly what I argue in a series of posts that form the skeleton for an ASCILITE paper submission.

Continuing on from the Oz Horizon report (Johnson et al, 2012, p. 4)

Both felt strongly that for students to learn how to effectively use technology, their teachers and mentors must find ways to embrace and creatively integrate it into their own work.

This is the problem I see again and again in higher education IT, especially examples of “institutional leadership with any technology”. Often the only way for academics to “embrace and creatively integrate it into their own work” is to change what they do to suit the constraints and limited capabilities of the type of “enterprise IT” that is rolled out within Universities.

i.e. the feel like change is being done to them, rather than for or with them.

In terms of analytics, it seems that the data/insights provided by analytics is seen by management as a way to potentially bypass the academics. Through the patterns revealed by academics management can see what students are doing (or not) and subsequently address it through institutional approaches that bypass or direct the academics to do something.

Of course, this is all based on the assumption that the patterns learning analytics reveal actually mean something, or can be interpreted effectively and appropriately without the sort of deep contextual knowledge that “good” teachers have.


Johnson, L., Adams, S., & Cummins, M. (2012). Technology Outlook for Australian Tertiary Education 2012-2017: An NMC Horizon Report Regional Analysis. New Media Consortium. Austin, Texas. Retrieved from

One thought on “Is there a link between managerialisation and learning analytics?

  1. beerc

    I also suspect that Australian universities are among the most “managerialised” institutions and this has lead to a (perhaps) unhealthy focus on performance indicators and metrics. Being a “glass half full” person I would say that analytics can capitalize on this situation in a number of ways.

    * Analytics appeals to the managerial mindset as it provides indicators of what is transpiring within online learning environments. Yes, there are some bad elements to this such as assumptions of causality etcetera that will need to be closely watched but it could also make it easier to implement analytics based projects through its attraction to management.
    * Analytics can potentially provide “coalface” academics with contextual knowledge that can be used to promote improved practices.
    * Perhaps a spinoff effect is that analytics can be used to provide management with a better understanding of the complexity within online learning environments. So while we have spoken at length about how analytics can contribute to “coalface” L&T change, perhaps there is an opportunity to contribute to managerialistic mindset change?

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