Use Data to Influence Student Behavior

Though they come from vastly different disciplines, the new members of the Experimental Teaching and Learning Analytics at Northwestern workgroup (ETLAN) who met for the first time on October 3rd are united by an interest in creating actionable insights made possible when the data generated by students and instructors are tracked, analyzed, and contextualized.

Now in its second year, ETLAN brings together faculty, graduate students, instructors, and student advisers from different schools across Northwestern. Their numbers are growing, from 12 last year to this year’s 45; currently 8 schools are represented. They meet to discuss how data from Canvas and other sources can be leveraged to improve teaching and learning outcomes. The focal point of Northwestern’s learning analytics activity is to add to the community’s collective knowledge and to turn interests and questions into development projects that help faculty meet their individual goals and perhaps become tools that can be used by a wider group of instructors.

The kickoff meeting in the Northwestern Library’s Ver Steeg lounge was an opportunity for the new members to not only meet the IT Services and Support staff who coordinate the group and its projects, but to also share their ideas and interests with one another. Among the analytics interests identified 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.

Software Architect Bill Parod was the first to address the group to get ideas flowing for projects in the coming year. His talk addressed the collaborations the group took on in the past and the results of that work. The attendees were clearly taken with a project from last year with Tom Collinger of Medill that helped the program directors determine that higher CTEC (student evaluation) ratings were correlated with courses that had more assignments; they found, as well, that students with the highest grades also spend the most time on discussion boards for both online and on campus courses.

“I think the group will provide a great opportunity to start university wide conversations about practical uses of analytics,” said Jessica Masnbach, 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 page.