When is learning analytics not about the students?

Sadly, but not surprisingly, I missed out on an invite to LASI 2013. But I am able to follow the conversation via other means such as the LASI blog aggregator. Via the aggregator I’ve come across this post from Mike Tissenbaum reflecting on the opening sessions.

In his post, Mike writes

Alyssa Wise mentioned that LA needs to be “learner centered”, which I think is vital, even as we begin to gather and process all of this data to make sense of it we need to remember that it’s about the students and all of our practices need to be focused on this and how we can help and enable learners to learn.

I don’t disagree that the ultimate aim of learning analytics is/should be learner centered. It’s learning we’d like to improve. However, I do want to suggest that there are contexts where learning isn’t the only consideration. This picks up a bit on the point Ian Reid made in comment on a prior post.

If you are talking about developing systems to help improve learning outcomes within a formal education system, then currently you have to consider the teachers. Since, for better or worse, teachers play a significant role in student learning. In this context, one way to improve the quality of learning is to help the teacher play their role more effectively. To successfully achieve this, you have to pay attention to the teacher, their context, their background, their abilities. Otherwise the system will fail to be used by the teacher.

I’ve seen lots of brilliantly designed information systems based on sound pedagogical principals fail because they focused on more on an idealised version of learning, rather than the reality of formal education.