Structuring Learning Activities to Gain Insight from Student Access Data

Grant programDewey Fellowship Program

Grant recipient: Marek Hatala, School of Interactive Arts and Technology

Project team: Barbara Berry, Centre for Educational Excellence (CEE), and Fatemeh Salehian Kia, research assistant

Timeframe: May 2019 to June 2021

Funding: $6000

Final report: View Marek Hatala's final report (PDF) >>

Description: My previous TLDG project, Keeping Students On-Track in Multi-week Projects via Learning Analytics Feedback, focused on generating feedback to motivate students to start working early on multi-week assignments/projects. By developing an instructional assignment specification scaffold in SFU’s learning management system (LMS), I was able to generate logs for tracking students’ engagement with different parts of the assignment. Via this tracking I could observe phases of planning and performance of students’ self-regulated learning processes. The data revealed learning behaviours that were quite diverse, and in many cases very different from what I envisioned as an instructor. Although my grant project focused on feedback to students, the data from my course provided me with valuable information about how students engage with the assignment activity.

The main idea of my work as a Dewey Fellow is to develop a set of ready-to-use instructional scaffolds that support teachers’ in-course inquiry of student learning activities. Students’ interactions with components of the scaffold will be directly trackable by an LMS. I expect that scaffolds for some activities can be rather generic (e.g., tracking use of learning resources), some can be broadly applicable for a particular kind of activity (e.g., an assignment scaffold for programming assignment), and some can be highly disciplinary-specific or tied to a particular pedagogy (e.g. a scaffold for critique in media projects). I will develop an interactive dashboard for instructors to view extracted student engagement data from the LMS logs and make it available as summarized data files for instructors’ further exploration. The main purpose of providing data access to instructors is to inform them about their students’ learning and give them more insight into when and to what extent students engage with the learning activity. A proper pedagogical intervention can then follow either individually with each student or with an entire class.

Questions addressed:

  • Which types of learning activities would instructors like to gain more insight into student engagement and to be able to provide efficient pedagogical interventions?
  • To what extent and in what ways do the pedagogical scaffolds designed to capture patterns of student engagement enable instructors to intervene productively?
  • To what extent and in what ways are the instructor’s dashboards effectively providing access to data and insights as their courses unfold?
  • Does the instructor’s use of the dashboard improve teaching and learning?
  • Does the monitoring of the assessment of learning activities reflect improved learning compared with the prior offerings of the course?

Knowledge sharing: I have regularly shared my insights with the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee and in my dialogues with colleagues. Interestingly, the colleagues who participated in the project used their insights to inform the discussion on different aspects of teaching as well. For example, the discussion in the school meeting on balancing student needs and faculty effort was informed by the actual usage level of the resources produced by faculty under difficult workload conditions.

Keywords:  Student data, learning behaviours, instructional dashboards, learning management system, data-informed instruction