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From desk to data: The classroom of the future is here

Telstra News

Posted on October 4, 2016

5 min read

The classroom of the future will be shaped by data and analytics – not paper and chalk.

Unlocking the power of teaching and learning for the next generation starts with bringing real-time delivery mechanisms and the use of learning analytics into the classroom, says University of Sydney academic, Dr Abelardo Pardo.

IN:SIGHT spoke with Pardo, who recently co-authored a whitepaper on ‘The Role of Learning Analytics in Future Education Models,’ to find out how data-informed approaches are set to benefit the education sector.


IN:SIGHT: Educational technology has been around for a while. What is it about learning analytics that is going to have such a big impact on education?

Abelardo Pardo: The concept of data informing teaching and learning practice is not a new phenomenon for the education sector. However, the strategic application of data for understanding the student learning process and developing scalable personalised interventions is the next stage.

This shift in emphasis from data only to student support has been promoted through the concept of data-informed decision-making, which involves the collection and analysis of data to provide actionable insights into teaching and learning.

The trend, or the trajectory, is that educational institutions are realising that the data they are collecting could be very valuable when properly analysed and connected with actions to improve student support.

IN:SIGHT: How will learning analytics be applied in the education sector?

Abelardo Pardo: Learning analytics are techniques that provide a connection between data and improvements in the student learning experience. The wealth of data that is obtained through applications used for learning offers an unprecedented opportunity to increase our understanding of how learning occurs, how it can be improved and to reflect on teaching and learning practice.

Institutions need to be aware of the right tools and methods, and have the know how to integrate them in their processes to support improvements of the learning process.

Learning analytics is about using data to provide not just students, but teachers, principals, and parents with relevant and timely feedback about learning processes. We are talking about an area that may reshape current educational models.

IN:SIGHT: How does learning analytics such as real-time learning analytics and dashboard visualisation provide insight into individual students’ progress that goes beyond current capabilities?

Abelardo Pardo: Timely feedback to learners has been proven as one of the most powerful ways to enhance learning and academic success. Yet large or highly diverse cohorts make individualised feedback for each student very challenging. Students may receive feedback after submitting an assessment, but this may be too late for some and the opportunity to intervene is lost.

By tracing and analysing the data about learners while they are engaged in activities, we can visualise these actions and use the information to provide real-time feedback about their progress.

IN:SIGHT: What sorts of results are possible with learning analytics in the classroom? 

Abelardo Pardo: Student retention is the best-established application of learning analytics and [Indiana-based] Purdue University’s Signals program is one of the early and best-known example. Signals is a software system that uses data from student interactions with learning management system and their assessments and derives a traffic light for each student  – green, yellow and red – to estimate their academic standing.

After this system there have been numerous initiatives that use data extracted from various data sources and help instructors provide the adequate support for each student.

IN:SIGHT: How is technology, and learning analytics in particular, going to change the classroom of the future?

Abelardo Pardo: As technology continues to advance teachers will look to more effective ways of keeping students engaged and improving opportunities for learning by introducing real-time delivery mechanisms and analytics.

In a learning environment, it will be possible to develop an application to observe how students communicate with their classmates, interact with the course material and use the required tools. These insights can then be used to propose suggestions that would make the learning process more pleasant, personalised, and effective.

The process will augment the teacher ability. Teachers will be much better informed and in a much better position to provide specific advice to students, redesign learning activities, or make adjustments to the way they orchestrate lessons in the classroom.

Knowledge of data analytics and understanding how student-learning data relates to an individual’s learning progression will be a fundamental skill for the 21st Century teacher.

“Learning analytics is about using data to provide not just students, but teachers, principals, and parents with relevant and timely feedback about learning processes. We are talking about an area that may reshape current educational models.”

Dr Abelardo Pardo, Senior Lecturer, School of Electrical & Information Engineering, The University of Sydney


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This article originally appeared on Telstra In:Sight.