Blackboard Learner Analytics: Developing a business case for our retention and staff development agenda

2012124103647I have just attended the Blackboard Big Data Learner Analytics forum, which was very interesting, and included a chance to catch up with a few old, familiar faces, plus meeting a few new ones 🙂

The challenge I set myself before it started was, how can I transfer the ideas and tools being discussed to UCS’s current agenda? Where is the business case?

I left in a very positive mood, which is not guaranteed for vendor workshops (I am getting far too old, and cynical). But the tool does offer great potential for UCS, yes, it might be a “clunky” and have a very data intensive interface (I can see a few issues with staff and students), but it does offer with some careful pre-thought excellent potential for the obvious areas of retention and student self-evaluation, but also informing a more effective, personalised staff development programme.

I could see this tool acting as the primary “dashboard view” for a small institution like UCS. Where stakeholders can access evidence to answer some of the answers to the questions they have.

For instance, we are already discussing student retention initiatives, and online induction courses. A couple of the case studies illustrated a model not dis-similar to our ideas. For instance, looking at key programmes at level 4, identifying student entry characteristics, signposting them to available academic skills and student support teams and programmes, enhancing student self-evaluation and awareness, monitoring attendance data and activity levels on the Blackboard and intervening. Well, what the tool offers is a very straight forward way of being able to monitor and track people and interactions, and display this to the right people at the right time. I particularly like the longitudinal feel, the cohort analysis, the cross system data and the inclusion of non-blackboard data sets.

The tool facilitates a very simple and effective model, where by students might use a formative diagnostic tool (student academic readiness survey – Explores their current information and digital literacy skills), integrated formative learning activities across semester 1 level 4 courses, summative assignment data, interaction with student support teams, and attendance and log data. For early warning of students at risk, and implement simple intervention strategies.

The intention of the blackboard learning analytics would be to bring these interactions together in one dashboard, shift us from being reactive to proactive, and allowing UCS to re-allocate resources to implement the intervention as opposed to collecting data.

The above is a really obvious application. However, I was interested to see how it could to help with the staff development programme. We have been shifting away from generic workshops to a more strategic and timely approach around staff development. However, this does rely on us having a good handle on who is using what, the course team use and need, and trying to share good practice. This data collection is a nightmare, long winded, tends to produce general information, doesn’t identify niche users, and prone to being inaccurate. However, the course design learning analytic reports nail it, with a few clicks. So, go go staff developers ….

So, where next, well I would quite like a few more conversations with people at UCS and beyond to further work up our scenarios to produce business cases.


With Thanks: Image Source:



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s