What can you see?
Collecting data on myself and also being able to access data on those who use my online resources, I was interested to contrast student activity that might be (made) apparent to a teacher, possibly though a dashboard, and that which might/could not.
It would be easy to contrast the superficial ‘click data’ recorded by an online environment, with the deeper, emotional activity of the student, so I limited my recording to simple behavoural activity, in order to compare like with like.
For five days I recorded all my activity (Eynon’s (2015) ‘what’) on this course, and where it took place.
I simplified the detail to make recording manageable with other commitments and so more likely to mean all such activity was recorded.
Results and Analysis
I grouped all activity by day, then environment, then whether or not they could likely be detected and used (for instance, by a dashboard).
My visualisation, though simplified (to aid creation as much as anything), does not attempt to make reading too simple.
More of a plant or fungus is underground, and that is also where the connections between what we think of as individual plants are usually most apparent. Likewise, a dashboard (overground) emphasises the individual and suggests that it makes the activity of the student visible; but so much even basic activity remains hidden to it, including the connections between activities, between students, and a student’s activity and the wider environment.
How does this relate to teaching?
- This does not relate to any specific ‘dashboard’ but rather focuses on what data might be commonly recorded by an online environment (a VLE, blog platform etc.) and could be used to profile a student or (along with other students’ data) predict their outcomes, to them or their teacher.
- That dashboards potentially make representation of and judgements on students with little data, that might be only proxies for learning, could lead to the call for ever greater data collection, or a push towards more activity being done in the zone where data can be collected (Brown, 2020).
- Alternatively, if the means by which the dashboard arrives at its pronouncements is known, this could help staff and student understand how to judge its usefulness. However, if the data is used to automatically regulate the system, this will be of no effect (Williamson et al, 2020).
- Again, I am aware of and controlling this data gathering; students may not be in the same situation. Teachers may be in the position where they (to some degree) control the gathering and whether or student see their own data. They then have to consider the effect that data gathering itself has on their students, what effect revealing data to students will have on them but, also, if students learn that their teacher withheld access, what impact that might have (Williamson et al, 2020).
- The visualisation lacks context, but the student data known to an HEI is partial and erroneous (for instance, students are not obliged to reveal all information about themselves, and can take the opportunity to retain their privacy, especially if they think it will prejudice the way they are perceived or treated). This is a problem if staff act as if data (or a dashboard) is complete and accurate.
- Although data has been collected as discrete items, this does not make them unrelated (see the bio-system analogy). As with previous visualisations, displaying data as separate points can be used to bring ‘clarity’ to a visualisation, making it easier to read, but is in fact bringing confusion, as it is transforming and hence changing the data.
Brown, M., 2020. Seeing students at scale: how faculty in large lecture courses act upon learning analytics dashboard data. Teaching in Higher Education. 25(4), pp. 384-400.
Eynon, R., 2015. The quantified self for learning: critical questions for education. Learning, Media and Technology, 40 (4), pp. 407-411, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2015.1100797
Williamson, B. Bayne, S. Shay, S. 2020. The datafication of teaching in Higher Education: critical issues and perspectives. Teaching in Higher Education. 25(4), pp. 351-365.