Open Learning Analytics

In 2014 Leaders from academe met to explore the intersection of learning analytics and open learning, open technologies, and open research.

Leaders in Learning Analytics and Open Source Software Hold Open Learning Analytics Summit

OLA Press Release

With learning analytics poised to become a mainstream technology, higher education leaders from around the world came together following the Learning Analytics and Knowledge (LAK) 2014 conference in Indianapolis, Indiana for an Open Learning Analytics (OLA) Summit. The Summit, supported by the Society for Learning Analytics Research (SoLAR), Marist College, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was organized to bring together representatives from the learning analytics and open source software development fields as a means to explore the intersection of learning analytics and open learning, open technologies, and open research.

The Summit, facilitated by George Siemens, Executive Director of the LINK Research Lab at The University of Texas at Arlington; Josh Baron, Senior Academic Technology Officer at Marist College; and Kimberly Arnold, Evaluation Consultant, University of Wisconsin-Madison, spanned two days and focused on open system architectures and how source communities can accelerate the full potential of learning analytics to provide powerful new tools for understanding learning and improving the learning experience and teaching practice.

Building on prior work in the area of OLA by both SoLAR and Apereo, the open-source foundation formed through the merger of Sakai and Jasig in 2012, participants from both communities, as well as others, worked to identify projects to further the field and move toward producing a range of open-source learning analytics services and products.

“Having helped to draft, along with many other colleagues, an initial concept paper on open learning analytics in 2011, it was exciting to see leading researchers in the field come together with those who have more than a decade of experience working on open-source software higher education projects,” said George Siemens, “My sense is that we will see some rather concrete projects emerge from the summit which could have a significant impact on both the field of learning analytics and higher education as a whole.”

One of the major outcomes of the Summit was the identification of a number of “domains” for the OLA community in which future work would be conducted. These OLA domains included: open research (e.g. open datasets, open predictive models, etc.), institutional strategy and policy issues, and learning sciences/learning design and open standards/open-source software. Leads for these domains will be working to document the findings from the Summit as well as developing implementation plans. For example, the open standards/open-source software group are now defining the scope and technical details of an open learning analytics architecture, which will be platform-agnostic, as well as identifying and reaching out to additional research and corporate partners. At the same time, representatives from both SoLAR and Apereo will collaborate on updating the prior Open Learning Analytics concept paper from 2011 to incorporate the Summit outcomes.

The launch of the Apereo Learning Analytics Initiative a few months ago demonstrates the level of strategic interest in learning analytics that exists within the Apereo ecosystem,” said Josh Baron, who is currently serving on the Apereo Foundation Board of Directors, “which will be significantly enhanced by our collaboration with world renowned researchers and practitioners from the SoLAR community.

Building on the success of this first OLA Summit, the organizers are also planning for future face-to-face gatherings which will include informal meetings at the 2014 Open Apereo conference in Miami, Florida (June 1 – 4) as well as other venues. In Europe, the Learning Analytics Community Exchange (LACE) project is organizing a series of community events in schools, universities, and the commercial sector that will emphasize the importance of the OLA objectives within the European LA community. The group is planning to hold another major OLA Summit at the 2015 Learning Analytics and Knowledge Conference, which will be hosted by Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York (March 16 – 20).

“We are extremely excited to be hosting the 2015 LAK conference on our campus,” said Dr. Dennis J. Murray, President of Marist College, “not only because of the strategic importance that Marist places on the emerging field of Learning Analytics but also because of the role we believe this field will play in transforming higher education over the coming decade. With this in mind, I would like to extend a personal invitation to institutional leaders from around the world to be part of this important event and join us in New York’s Hudson River Valley in 2015.”

For organizations and individuals that would like to get involved in the OLA initiative, please contact gsiemens (at) gmail (dot) com.

Those interested in learning more about the Apereo Learning Analytics Initiative can contact Alan Berg, the community officer for the initiative, analytics-coordinator (at) apereo (dot) org.

About SoLAR

SoLAR exists to ensure that there is an expansive, transformative vision for what analytics might mean for the future of learning and to promote critical practice-based research and discourse. SoLAR is a non-profit organization.

SoLAR activities include:

  • Overseeing the annual Learning Analytics and Knowledge conference and the Journal of Learning Analytics
  • Engage in collaborative research, particularly in the development of Open Learning Analytics Architectures
  • Publications on the state and future of analytics in learning, training, and education
  • Consultations with educational leaders and policy makers on analytics deployment and evaluation
  • Shared research with vendors and analytics providers
  • About Apereo

    The Apereo Foundation was formed by the merger of Jasig and the Sakai Foundation in late December 2012.

    Sakai and Jasig had pioneered the production and adoption of open source software for higher education for over ten years. Apereo will take that work further, providing a more rational and improved organizational umbrella for a range of projects and software communities serving higher education. The core mission of the Foundation — to “assist and facilitate educational organizations which collaborate to foster, develop, and sustain open technologies and innovation to support learning, teaching, and research” — is discussed, along with the rationale for the merger, in more detail in the white paper “The Value of a Common Foundation: The Case for Apereo.”

    In Support

    Shirley Alexander, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia
    Kimberly Arnold, University of Wisconsin-Madison
    Josh Baron, Marist College
    Alan Berg, Amsterdam University, Netherlands
    Norman Bier, Carnegie Mellon University
    Christopher Brooks, University of Michigan
    Doug Clow, The Open University, UK
    Adam Cooper, Cetis, UK
    Shane Dawson, University of South Australia, Australia
    Hendrik Drachsler, Open University, Welten Institute, Netherlands
    Erik Duval, KU Leuven, Belgium
    Rebecca Ferguson, The Open University, UK
    Dragan Gasevic, Athabasca University, Canada
    Cable Green, Director of Global Learning, Creative Commons
    Stian Håklev, University of Toronto, Canada
    Jim Helwig, University of Wisconsin-Madison
    Sandeep Jayaprakash, Marist College
    Linda Jorn, University of Wisconsin-Madison
    Chris Lalande, University of Wisconsin-Madison
    Phillip D. Long, University of Queensland, Australia
    Bruce Maas, University of Wisconsin-Madison
    Leah P. Macfadyen, The University of British Columbia, Canada
    Chris Millet, The Pennsylvania State University
    Abelardo Pardo, The University of Sydney, Australia
    Zachary A. Pardos, University of California, Berkeley
    Carolyn Rose, Carnegie Mellon University
    Perry Samson, University of Michigan
    Jose Luis Santos, KU Leuven, Belgium
    Simon Buckingham Shum, The Open University, UK
    Shady Shehata, Desire2Learn Incorporated, Canada
    Mika Seppala, Florida State University and WEPS, LLC.
    George Siemens, University of Texas at Arlington
    John Stamper, Carnegie Mellon University
    Chris Teplovs, Problemshift Inc.
    Craig Thompson, University of Saskatchewan, Canada
    David Wiley, Lumen Learning
    Philip H. Winne, Simon Fraser University, Canada


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