Interview with Authors of Learning Analytics: a Metacognitive Tool to Engage Students

Interview with Authors of Learning Analytics: a Metacognitive Tool to Engage Students


Prof. Dr. Airina Volungevičienė, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania

Prof. Habil. Dr. Margarita Teresevičienė, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Elena Trepulė, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania

1. What was the idea behind conducting this research? Was it a part of some previous research of yours or did you simply  notice a niche in the field and decided to investigate it?

Airina: To start with, it is important to mention, that this research is a part of a wider-scope research project on open online learning for digital and network society. With this project we aimed to enable university teachers to design open and online learning through open and online learning curriculums and environment applying learning analytics as a metacognitive tool, while creating open and online learning assessment and recognition practices, responding to the needs of a digital and networked society. In the past few years, the discussion about technologies for learning has moved away from institutionally managed systems to open and networked learning environments. Our team of researchers have been involved in multiple (inter)national research and applied projects in the field of technology-enhanced teaching and learning, digital education, micro-credentialization in higher education, and the similar for quite a few years already. We have noted that despite active discussions and initiatives related to the technologies for learning, little research has been conducted so far to understand how learners learn in open online learning environments and how learners, educators, institutions, and researchers can best support this process.

So, the idea to conduct research on how learning analytics may help teachers to design and organise teaching and learning, was prompted by global tendencies as well as institutional needs to enable university teachers to monitor learners’ behaviour, learning progresses, improve curriculums, and increase learners’ engagement based on learning analytics-driven data. With this research we aimed to explain through scientific research the method of learning analytics as a metacognitive tool by describing learning analytics method as a metacognitive tool in open and online learning; providing evidence of students’ learning performance methods in educational settings by analysing the learning behavioural patterns of different student groups in open and online learning; revealing teacher practices in the application of the learning analytics method within the study process; and creating the model for the application of the learning analytics method as a metacognitive tool to enhance student success.

Margarita: Understanding that the application of learning analytics is a rather new practice and idea for our University teachers, we proposed not only a conceptual basis for explaining learning analytics as a metacognitive tool, but rather focused on presenting good practices and cases from existing online courses on how teachers can make informed decisions on how to improve teaching and learning, develop student-centred activities, raise learners’ awareness of the learning process and so on. Next to this, we have created and presented a model of learning analytics as a metacognitive tool to enhance student academic success, that can be used by teachers as a tool to reflect their practice, create metacognitive strategies for students, make decisions on how to design learning so that it would stimulate social, cognitive, and teaching presence.

So, to sum up, by doing research which could be considered as a niche at our institution or at a national level, we contributed to the global tendencies of demonstrating how learning analytics as a metacognitive tool can foster a more active teachers’ reflective practice and learners’ engagement.

2. Was it difficult to convince teachers and students to take part in your research?

Elena: We have applied multiple research methods for data collection. For example, during the first stage, when the teachers were invited to be interviewed about their experiences in monitoring learners’ behaviour in online learning environment, accessing and analysing learning analytics-driven data for designing teaching and learning, research participants were happy to share their experiences and take part in the research. However, we must admit that there were also some teachers who were interviewed yet refused to give access to their courses on the Moodle platform where we were extracting the specific activities and tasks that demonstrated and illustrated teachers’ metacognitive knowledge and practice mentioned during the interviews. Nevertheless, it is important to note that this research was conducted before the pandemic situation and so not all teachers had had a lot of online teaching experience, which we referred to as a research limitation.

3. How does the experience with online teaching change teaching practice in general?

Elena: Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has forced thousands of teachers to switch to an online mode basically overnight, thus causing a dramatic change in teaching practices around the globe,  this was of course an emergency move as teachers mostly worked in survival mode. However, after a while they realized that the traditional methods and relation to the learners did not work, that they needed a different standpoint, different methods, and different materials. Online teaching requires a substantial change of perspective mostly in terms of learner-centeredness which is also a welcome tendency in teaching practice in general.

4. Are online learning coursers our future?

Elena: Speaking from a post-COVID perspective online learning is the new normal, as adult learners have tasted the possibilities to combine face-to-face and online learning, and they understand that online learning is convenient in combining their busy schedules, family, and work responsibilities with learning. Having said that, it is pointless to say that online learning will 100% replace traditional learning. There are contexts where each mode is more convenient, and they will serve at its best. However, even in pre-COVID time, when we conducted our research survey about the learning needs of a digital networked society, the results showed that adults wanted to learn online, that they were willing to control their time, learn within the existing time limitations, and that learners expected online courses from universities and flexible study programs to be able to connect in their own time, ones adjusted to work and family life, including through mobile devices.

5. Had you cooperated with the other authors before?

Margarita: As was mentioned before, we have worked with the main authors of this study for more than a decade now, but  we were also happy to engage young researchers into our research team who are also actively engaged in  digital education and technology-enhanced teaching and learning.

6. Will you continue this research in the future? Or perhaps you have plans for something else? Possibly you could  tell us a little bit about it?

Elena: Since this study was published, we have received funding for another scientific project on the integration of digital micro-credentials into higher education, which aims at developing the process of issuing a micro-credential within higher education. Additionally, our team of researchers is engaged in multiple international applied projects related to the supporting of educators and organisations in the path of digital transformation for online learning; designing and implementing transparent learning assessment and recognition, where among other activities, researchers will develop a methodological framework and training material for monitoring, supporting and engaging learners on the basis of the evidence generated by digital technologies, such as learning analytics. In such a way, we continue and expand our research field, develop our competencies and knowledge in this field and contribute to the innovative teaching practices that are driven by digital evidence and metacognitive strategies.

Read the book here: Learning Analytics: a Metacognitive Tool to Engage Students

We invite you also to read the Press release

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The presented study is the result of the research project ‘Open Online Learning for Digital and Networked Society (3.3-LMT-K-712-01-0189)’, funded by the European Social Fund according to the activity ‘Improvement of researchers’ qualification by implementing world-class R&D projects’ of Measure No. 09.3.3-LMT-K-712 under the grant agreement with the Research Council of Lithuania (LMTLT).

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