Best Practice

RED and Learning Analytics

Co-Author Darelle Keegan

Learning Analytics are very much on trend at the moment.

The Educause Centre for Analysis and Research  have been producing weighty research papers and opinion pieces on the challenges they pose for higher education. Coursera provoked considerable interest with the 2013 announcement that they could verify a user’s identity by how they typed a ‘signature phrase’.[1] This is even before we tackle the thorny topic of who owns the data and what should universities or private companies be allowed to do with it. In the era of Google Analytics and Facebook and persistent tracking of users online, learning analytics is a fraught topic.

Resources for Education @ University College Cork has been in existence since 2012 and since its inception we have used data analytics using a combination of Google Analytics and Blackboard statistics tracking to yield some interesting information. In April 2016, Darrelle Keegan and I decided to test the efficacy of Facebook advertising for RED. We had two particular questions that we wanted to answer:

  1. Would a Facebook ad campaign set around exam time drive traffic to the Facebook page and
  2. Would this Facebook traffic result in more visits to the RED@UCC website

During a two week advertising campaign of ‘boosting posts’ the ‘reach’ of our Facebook posts increased from 450 to 3000. During this time the RED@UCC Facebook page had a 15% increase in likes and page views. This information was provided by Facebook analytics but to complete the picture we compared the traffic to the website using Google Analytics. We compared the usage stats from April 2015 (no ad campaign) versus April 2016 (Facebook ad campaign). There was a 91.51% increase in users of the site and a 100.46% increase in the number of pages viewed.

You may well be asking the pedagogical utility of this to online and blended learning. Well Facebook analytics and Google analytics provide quantitative data and the ad campaign itself is the context for that data.

Every year we ask the students for detailed qualitative feedback in the form of end of module surveys. The academic staff teaching a module have context to bring. The final piece of the puzzle comes from Blackboard. With just a few clicks and a little planning the student use of individual resources on Blackboard can be tracked. Marrying this quantitative data with the survey (qualitative data) and the context provided by the academic could yield some interesting research. In instructional design we work closely with the Centre for the Integration of Research Teaching and Learning (CIRTL). Dr Marian McCarthy has challenged UCC academics and students to make their teaching and learning visible.  Armed with the admittedly simple learning analytics available in Blackboard we are better placed to engage in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. As the RED case study shows from multiple sources of data with context comes beneficial insights.

[1] ‘Introducing Signature Track’ Coursera Blogpost, 9 January 2013, Last Accessed 23 September 2016.