Every year across the sector, there seems to be a hot topic which emerges. Over the past couple of years, flexible pedagogies such as Flipped Teaching or Team Based Learning arose as real areas of interest. This past year, new methods for curriculum design such as ABC, or investigation into the online student experience have become prevalent, but one that has been bubbling consistently over the years is user analytics. More recently, this has evolved into a discussion around dashboarding; pulling data from a number of sources into a single platform, giving teachers and universities a wider picture of a students interaction with learning tools and services, and other ancillary services across a University. Whilst these systems will never give us a complete picture of what’s going on across institutions, they are now offering a much greater insight into user behaviour, trends, and support requirements for individuals to improve their chances of success.

However, we are still at a point with online learning, where we haven’t been able to delve deep into the activity of a student, or a cohort of students on VLE activity. Analytics traditionally gathered and shared to teachers are not easy to understand, analyse, or identify trends, getting insight into what’s going on within a resource hasn’t been possible, and because of this, we tend to see core resources go unchanged for years without any idea if they are effective or not. Talis Elevate certainly changes things.

Since first piloting Talis Elevate whilst working at Anglia Ruskin University as a Senior Learning Technologist, it was immediately apparent to me that Elevate offered a completely unique insight into learning activity for individual students and across a cohort. Having the ability to see page by page (or section by section for video) where students were spending their time on a resource enabled us to identify trends across the cohort, and across modules in an easy, digestible and understandable manner was truly very powerful, whilst also providing individual students with more advice and guidance based on their approach to learning. This enabled our staff to make evidence based changes to their learning design whilst teaching; something very powerful for any academic looking to constantly improve their teaching approach, resource development, and fundamentally, improve their students experience and knowledge of the subject matter.

Now that I’m part of the Talis team, we’re now working collaboratively with our pilot users to undertake deeper analysis into user behaviour. For example, being able to tell that students are spending the vast majority of their time reviewing exemplar coursework papers and practice tests may indicate that the focus is too much on the assessment rather than the detail of the subject matter (an assessment focussed cohort rather than knowledge gain), or clearly seeing the vast majority of students are simply glancing at content just ahead of the lecture, enables teachers to adjust their teaching style, or work with their students to refocus their attention or adjust their approach to learning. Alongside this, we are working with our users to develop ‘micro level research projects’, answering the otherwise unanswerable questions about students interaction with resources and learning.

I’ll be presenting some of our findings at the upcoming ALT-C conference in Manchester next week, as well as at the UEL Learning and Teaching symposium the week after. If this area of deeper investigation is something you are interested in, please do come along. We are expanding our pilot base of Talis Elevate users this academic year, to ensure we are creating a product that adds considerable value to the learning and teaching community. If you feel you would get value from a system like Elevate, please get in touch, and if you’d like us to present at your own Learning and Teaching conference on Elevate and our findings, we’d love to get involved.