A Lens On… Learning Analytics

In this series of articles, the Educational Technology team will be providing an insight into existing practice using technology for learning and teaching at Falmouth University and various projects being undertaken within the sector.


Learning Analytics utilises the data that passes through University systems and can be used as a powerful tool for learning about students and their achievements. It is used to collect data to measure learning and the contexts in which learning takes place. This data is then analysed and put to use to optimise interactions and opportunities; improving engagement, experiences and ultimately results.

It cannot be as simple as throwing data into some predictive software and asking it to tell you what it thinks though; analysts/experts are best placed to interpret the data, who know what they’re looking for, and align results with the institutional, teaching and student priorities.

An example of analysing an element of learning is measuring engagement. Overall there are three levels that can be measured.

Students who are behaviourally engaged would typically comply with behavioural norms, such as attendance and involvement, and would demonstrate the absence of disruptive or negative behaviour.

Behavioural engagement can be measured by recording attendance at face to face sessions and access to online materials. This can be relatively easy to achieve as long as the monitoring tools are in place.

Students who engage emotionally would experience affective reactions such as interest, enjoyment, or a sense of belonging

Emotional engagement is more difficult to measure. Some activities that facilitate tracking include online discussion, interactive activities

Cognitively engaged students would be invested in their learning, would seek to go beyond the requirements, and would relish challenge

Cognitive engagement is even more difficult to measure. Extra curricular activities and ‘extra credit’ work can shed some light…

Activities, systems and mechanisms need to be in place to ensure that the right level of analytics can be performed, and measurements can be determined. This is why smaller pilots should be carried out with tasks designed with analytics in mind; so that settings and specifications can be refined.

There are other reasons to implement Learning Analytics including (but not limited to):

  • Identify students at risk so as to provide positive interventions designed to improve retention.
  • Provide recommendations to students in relation to reading material and learning activities.
  • Detect the need for, and measure the results of, pedagogic improvements.
  • Tailor course offerings.
  • Identify teachers who are performing well, and teachers who need assistance with teaching methods.
  • Assist in the student recruitment process.

Jisc cetis Analytics Series (2012)

Learning analytics has a strong link with pedagogy, and consideration needs to be taken into how the institution would like to improve pedagogically, and consider the method of implementation of a learning analytics process to ensure that it will not hinder, but enhance the direction of its learning and teaching strategy.

The sector has looked at learning analytics over the last few years as a tool to achieve better experiences for students. The realities of using the huge amount of data that institutions collect is shrouded in ethical and legal issues but luckily, the good folks over at Jisc have done a lot of the leg work and developed a Code of Practice for learning analytics as part of their ongoing Effective Learning Analytics project. This code of practice is in place to advise UK HEIs about the legal and ethical considerations that need to be included in the implementation of a learning analytics strategy.

See some of Team ET’s previous work on Learning Analytics with the Jisc Learning Analytics Network and its pre-project work.

A Lens On… Digital Wellbeing

Digital Wellbeing
Image: CPD needs heirarchy by @simonrae

In this series of articles, the Educational Technology team will be providing an insight into existing practice using technology for learning and teaching at Falmouth University and also at projects being undertaken within the sector.

The student experience is increasingly mediated through use of technology; timetabling systems, online learning, Student Information Systems, Customer Relationship Management software, mobile devices… all things that staff and students will need to engage with in one form or other to navigate their way through life at University. ‘Digital Wellbeing’ is concerned with exploring and improving these interactions in a personal and social context.

Social media tools are incredibly useful and popular in teaching and learning, but are often built around a Culture of Participation; the more ‘likes’ you get the more influential you are. This in turn exacerbates the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) – if you’re not connected then you’re not part of the crowd. Some technologies are designed to help us improve our wellbeing; running trackers, calorie counters, sleep timers all attempt to provide us with feedback based on quantifying our day to day activity, but do they in themselves enhance our wellbeing?

Technology proliferation and a participation culture within the HE sector, can lead to increasing anxiety amongst students and staff, so there is an increasing need for the individual and the institution to recognise and makes steps to mitigate this. JISC/NUS’s Student Experience Benchmarking Tool can be a great conversation starter in this area; note where you are on the scale of First Steps to Outstanding and plan to improve.

Digital Wellbeing Benchmark

Some courses at Falmouth University are addressing this head on by encouraging group discussion around stress and anxiety; there are various signs up inviting people to meditation groups and the University promote both internal wellbeing services and external Talking Therapies like BE|ME.
Wellbeing Services

A recent #LTHEChat that explored Digital Wellbeing asked participants to reflect on technology that enhanced their wellbeing, many focused on social connectivity that isn’t restricted by place/time and the ability to share. In thinking about how technology detracted from this, answers centred around not being able to ‘switch off’, being ‘all over the place’ and a saturation of ‘info’ and ‘spam’ that could be considered digital noise.

So how do we manage our digital wellbeing? Suggestions from the chat were to set time boundaries for checking social media, literally switch off devices and step outside the bubble of your own technology use. It is also important to encourage discussion and development of our digital capabilities and as JISC/NUS suggest, provide space for self-reflection.

Falmouth’s Student Union have identified ‘Mental Health Support’ in their Top10 issues for 2015/16 and have also established a ’Green Living’ project and ‘Digital Detox Series’. These events focus on removing oneself from the day to day technology and engage in outdoor making and horticultural activities as a means to improve wellbeing.

Digital Detox

The series was organised by a recent graduate who I had the opportunity to ask about the concept of Digital Wellbeing. He talked about access to the internet, movies and online games as “another layer of insulation from the outside world, a further excuse to stay indoors.” and “a constant stream of stimulation, rendering anything outside of a virtual world boring.” He acknowledged the benefits of online learning and video/audio chats, but said that above all the means of technology to play music was one thing they couldn’t be without.

I also talked to a member of academic staff, who saw the benefits of technology in making you feel connected and providing avenues of accessibility, which chimes with the #LTHEchat. She also mentioned the negative impacts that mobile technology can have on our physical health, such as carrying the items, using the items incorrectly and sharing workstations adding “Right now, my laptop is on my knee and I am looking down at the screen. That can lead to a form of whiplash but in slow motion – accreting over the years.”

As working online is such a part of our daily lives, we’re often using the internet as a distraction instead of taking time away from the screen. A common theme was that access to online stuff can “suck you in”, so techniques that break tasks up such as Pomodoro can be useful. Our staff member has introduced “an early morning switch off policy – going for a walk/run instead…I feel better for it”. They suggested that less or better use of email could aid wellbeing, but although this has been discussed over a number of years, it remains hard to implement.

It’s fantastic to see this concern being raised at national and institutional level and the JISC/NUS tool leaves us with an important consideration regarding implementation:

“Most of the ‘outstanding’ practices involve staff and students working in partnership. The partnership needs to be meaningful in order to work, which means that both groups must listen, recognise each others’ skills and resources, and be willing to compromise. “

A Lens on… Blended Learning

In this series of articles, the Educational Technology team will be providing an insight into existing practice using technology for learning and teaching at Falmouth University and also at projects being undertaken within the wider HE sector. Our previous articles have looked at the process of Feedback, Open Education, Assessment and Digital Literacy.

The term ‘Blended Learning’ is interpreted in various ways depending on the practitioner that you are talking to. A good definition is that it is learning that takes advantage of the best of both physical and digital learning environments. As a result, open-ended activities take place which engage the learner and enables them to control their own learning in a directed setting, alongside face-to-face interaction with their tutors and peers, and structured activities which are focused and purposeful (Schmidt, 2007).

There are a lot of pedagogic and instructional models and theories of learning that are adapted to describe teaching and learning processes and facilitate ‘blended learning’. Applying these into the process of designing learning in both digital and physical environments results in excellent learning experiences for your students.

It isn’t always as simple as that though. There are many modes of learning when you consider mobile, social and personal, synchronous and asynchronous, online, face-to-face etc. Sometimes the student’s learning preference doesn’t co-exist harmoniously with the style of teaching; so formalising, or structuring the delivery of teaching and combining it with a flexible approach to learning gives the student the flexibility to learn in a way that is effective for them; but be guided by purposeful and meaningful learning activities.

If your course/module is due for a re-design, or yet to be designed, then we would recommend that you talk to us about good practice that is already proved to be highly effective in the field.

The Hybrid Learning Model developed by the University of Ulster combines events that take place during the learning cycle and suggests a clear approach to applying each event into practice. The model brings together 8 learning events model developed by LabSET, University of Liège (Verpoorten et al, 2006), and Sue Bennett from the University of Wollongong’s 30 verbs, to focus the mind on the human element of learning and teaching and the interactions between participants in the learning process.


The CAIeRO process, used as an essential part of validation and periodic subject review at the University of Northampton, takes teaching teams through a set of six stages (listed below). The workshops are participant-centred, and are facilitated by Learning and Teaching experts.

  1. Blueprint: for the course or module – a revised and agreed spec.
  2. Storyboard: The storyboard incorporates any face-to-face and online components (synchronous and asynchronous), aligned to the learning outcomes and assessment.
  3. Prototyping: We design specific elements of the storyboard. Not content, but what learners are expected to do with it (activities and assessments).
  4. Reality checking: Students are invited to review the team’s work and feed back any changes.
  5. Review and adjust: We take those suggestions on board and modify things accordingly.
  6. Action Plan: Participants commit to specific actions by certain dates, which will be reviewed at the follow-up session.

Institute of Learning and Teaching, University of Northampton, 2015

Take a look through participants’ reflections on the CAIeRO process at Northampton on their LearnTech team blog.

Embedding the Hybrid Learning Model into CAIeRO (mashed up with other teaching and learning models throughout the six stages) is a great way to make sure that those excellent learning experiences I mentioned above are created, and that they are delivered in a blended environment.

So, essentially, Blended Learning is mixing two or more modes of learning together – like face-to-face sessions and an online lecture – and designing an activity that will help the student to take part in them, create meaningful pieces of learning that they can digest, and can reflect on to consolidate it all.

The CAIeRO model’s early days actually started as the Carpe Diem model from University of Leicester (now called the 7Cs of Learning Design Workshop). CAIeRO has been adapted over a number of years, and successfully used in a variety of disciplines ranging from hands on sciences, health and education to fine art and performing arts (plus many more!). During the research for this post, I discovered that the original Carpe Diem model was used at Falmouth with MA Professional Writing back in 2008 as part of the original CHEETAH project with Leicester and 5 other UK HEIs.

The Educational Technology team are here to help you with the design stage of course development, as well as implementing it into the Learning Space, or the most appropriate technology to facilitate it. Get in touch to have a chat about setting up a session for your course or module.


Verpoorten, D., Poumay, M., Leclercq, D. (2006), The 8 Learning Events Model: a Pedagogic Conceptual Tool Supporting Diversification of Learning Methods. Interactive Learning Environments [e-journal] 15(2). Available at: <http://hdl.handle.net/2268/10129>

Schmidt, J.T. (2007), Preparing Students for Success in Blended Learning Environments: Future Oriented Motivation and Self-Regulation. Ph.D, LMU München: Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences. Available at:  <https://edoc.ub.uni-muenchen.de/6561> [Accessed 16/10/2015].

A Lens on… Digital Literacy

In this series of articles, the Educational Technology team will be providing an insight into existing practice using technology for learning and teaching at Falmouth University and also at projects being undertaken within the wider HE sector.Our previous articles have looked at Assessment, Feedback and Open Education.

The term ‘Digital Literacy’ has origins which date back to the 1960s as Doug Belshsaw notes in What is ‘Digital Literacy’? and encompasses comprehension and understanding around use of technologies. 

Henry Jenkins describes it as the ability to effectively and critically navigate, evaluate and create information using a range of digital technologies. It requires one “to recognize and use that power, to manipulate and transform digital media, to distribute pervasively, and to easily adapt them to new forms”. One of the best definitions in my opinion comes from Josie Fraser who describes it in terms of function and socio-cultural development:

Digital Literacy = digital tool knowledge + critical thinking + social engagement

Fraser’s work with the  DigiLit Leicester project presents an excellent framework of reference for educators in understanding how we support these literacies. It has led to the local council driving forward use of OER and giving express permission to schools and colleges to make use of open materials in the physical and virtual classroom.

From 2011-2013 Jisc ran a project around digital literacies, which built on a Digital Literacy framework developed by Beetham and Sharpe (2010) to describe 7 elements that combine to form our digital literacies (Fig.1). A further ongoing project looks at the digital capabilities our institutions need to scaffold the development of these literacies.

Figure 1 – Seven elements of digital literacies from the JISC Digital Literacy project.

Online, Mozilla continues to encourage people by using an experiential approach to learning, with Teach The Web and Code Club partners volunteering with community groups to teach coding to kids.

In Finland, digital literacies are embedded in the core curriculum and the recent House of Lords Digital Skills report urges Universities to ensure the digital competency of their graduates so that they have the necessary skills to thrive in the future workplace.

At Falmouth, the ET team organises a range of drop in events aimed at sharing practice, trying out new tools and discussing the ever evolving world of Educational Technology. Last year we ran a series of 10 workshops ranging in theme and included a mobile learning speed geek/picnic, where staff got to move around the room discussing ‘mobile first’ design approaches to learning and new apps and technologies in the mobile environment.

We’re always up for doing more of this kind of stuff and talking about developing student literacies within taught courses, so get in touch if you have any thoughts/ideas around the subject.

A Lens on… Assessment

In this series of articles, the Educational Technology team will be providing an insight into existing practice using technology for learning and teaching at Falmouth University and also at projects being undertaken within the wider HE sector. Our previous articles have looked at the process of Feedback and Open Education.

As we enter the summer term it seems only right to have a look at the process of assessment. This time of the year is heavily associated with assessment as students hand in final pieces of work before the end of the academic year. As a University specialising in creative arts, the submissions from our students are as diverse as the courses studied, it’s our role as technologists to support a wide range of submission formats when it comes to online hand-ins. 

 As with 98% of Universities, Falmouth uses Turnitin as a tool for online submissions. Turnitin allows students and staff to check work for citations and text matches across a variety of sources including online journals, websites and books. Although the tool can be used to identify potential plagiarism it also allows students to understand how to correctly cite referenced work by visually identifying any text which has been matched to another source. Allowing students to view ‘originality reports’ in this way has received some criticism in the past, although others feel it’s a useful aid to develop academic writing.  

In addition to Turnitin, a file upload function is in place at Falmouth University that handles a variety of formats submitted for assessment via the VLE. This can include data, image and video files and facilitates commenting and feedback from academic members of staff. 

In the past we have also used external media platforms such as Vimeo to handle assessed materials. In the case of Vimeo, students uploaded video content and tagged work with unique module codes so staff could easily search and mark material.

As the methods for documenting, collecting and recording work diversifies, it’s our job as a team to ensure the digital assessment process is as streamlined as possible. We’re always interested to hear from other Ed Tech teams who have implemented successful assessment methods or tools, if you’d like to share a workflow that’s worked well for your students please get in touch!       

A Lens on… Open Education

In this series of articles, the Educational Technology team will be providing an insight into existing practice using technology for learning and teaching at Falmouth University and also at projects being undertaken within the wider HE sector. Our first looked at the process of Feedback and our second looks at Open Education.

The term ‘Open Education’ refers to the ethos and practices of removing barriers to, and providing and promoting new opportunities for learning. It is more about an approach and a mindset than a set of technologies or a way of teaching and is focussed around the learning community rather than the didactic teacher-student relationship. Catherine Cronin’s excellent presentation, Navigating The Marvellous which presents openness within the context of higher education and the social and technological practices of modern learners and educators.


The last few years have seen the rise of ‘Open’ on the educational agenda, in part due to the buzz around MOOCs being a disruptor to education. However, most mainstream MOOCs have been institutionalised and bent to fit existing educational practices, so we’re seeing the buzzword become less relevant. Open Education and Open Educational Resources in contrast are becoming more so, as the worldwide Open Education Week site conveys . The affordances that technology offer Open Learning have been seized around the fringes by Open Educators that seek to exploit technology and challenge educational paradigms.

Open Educational initiatives like #PHONAR, Creativity for Learning in Higher Education, #RHIZO15 and the ability to remix other open courses on P2PU are examples of community or learner centred curriculums. These approaches put the web to use as it was originally intended, for the sharing of information.


The conversation around Open Education is active in Scotland, with practitioners who have instigated Open Badges projects and in Wales where this years #OER15 conference is being hosted. The DigiLit Leicester project, who we talked about in our ET trends for 2015, also hosted the first OER Schools conference earlier this year, helping schools and colleges to further understand the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) and how to create and promote their own resources.Cable Green’s keynote from #OER15 addresses the current and future state of OER and the benefits to education and society.

Whilst researching this post, I came across a previous project that took place at Falmouth a few years back called Openspace, which promoted sharing of Open Educational Resources and corroborates existing research into the field. It states that OER use can aid recruitment, enhance institutional reputation and catalyse collaboration and uptake of new technologies. The Openspace website is no longer active, but if anyone at the institution is interested in how technology can support Open Educational practice, get in touch with the team.