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Learning analytics workgroup grows in size and interests

Though they come from vastly different disciplines, the 18 new members of the Experimental Teaching and Learning Analytics at Northwestern (ETLAN) workgroup, who met for the first time on October 3, are united by an interest in creating actionable insights made possible when the data generated by students and instructors are tracked, analyzed, and contextualized. ETLAN is the focal point of Northwestern’s learning analytics activity, developing the community’s collective knowledge and turning interests and questions into development projects that help faculty meet their individual goals. Ultimately these projects may become learning apps that can be used by a wider group of instructors.

Now in its second year, ETLAN’s membership has grown from 12 last year to 45 this year: faculty, graduate students, instructors, and student advisers from eight different Northwestern schools are members. They meet to discuss how data from Canvas and other sources can be leveraged to improve teaching and learning outcomes.

The kickoff meeting in the library’s Ver Steeg lounge was an opportunity for the new members not only to meet the Academic & Research Technologies staff who coordinate the group and its projects, but also to also share their ideas and interests with one another. Among the analytics interests described by the participants are: data-based course redesign; natural language processing and discussion forum metrics; peer review of course work; student advising dashboards; gamification as incentive; accessibility and privacy; and workload assessment.

“I think the group will provide a great opportunity to start university-wide conversations about practical uses of analytics,” said Jessica Mansbach, Learning Designer at the School of Professional Studies. “The ETLAN group will allow people who have already started projects about analytics and people who want to start projects on analytics to support each other through idea and knowledge sharing and working together to move projects forward.”

“I very much enjoyed the ETLAN meeting. I am a new student and it’s a great platform to interact with people from the different schools,” said McCormick Master of Engineering Management student Meenu Satiya.

For more information about the group and how to join it, please visit the ETLAN page.