By Matt Jenner, on 20 April 2012
We have had UCL Moodle linked to Google Analytics for the past three or so years, the data this allows us to see about Moodle usage and browsing habits is getting increasingly interesting. The concept of looking into data for measuring learning is obviously bonkers, no amount of pure data of browsing behaviour of Moodle will give indication about any actual learning taking place. Observe a classroom or people on the bus, you can see how many people are there and what they’re doing, but you won’t know what they’re thinking, what connections are being made etc. But, do not despair, there is a reason for this post – albeit it’s a bit dry and technical…
What Google Analytics does is give us an anonymous view into what happens when someone comes onto Moodle. For example, you do this:
- Browse to the Moodle homepage
- View a course
- Send a forum message
- Log out
You’ve just left a data trail behind you about your computer (not you). This trail isn’t used for snooping on you personally, it’s anonymous, it also isn’t used for snooping at all. What it does, and I hope you believe me, is leave data tracks telling us something useful. For example, let’s look at the above and break it down.
You and your browser
Google analytics can find this information out:
- Web browser (Internet Explorer 9)
- Operating system (Windows 7)
- Device-ish (only really useful for mobile devices like smartphones)
- Rough location (London, UK)
- Internet Provider (University College London)
- IP Address (your computers’ address to the internet)
- Some other stuff (passport, NI number, date of birth, name – all not included!!!)
Don’t be scared about this, none of the data can be used to identify you. As a side note: if you’re worried about UCL Moodle collecting this data, remember that for other sites (such as the big ones outside of UCL which you may use daily) your data is their product, and you give them nearly everything about you, this data is only about your computer, but let’s not go down that route, this is about learning…
Other data collected
Google’s Analytics also collects data about your pages you view; so for example each page you load is marked as a ‘view’ on that page. Pages with higher numbers of views are clearly more popular, for whatever reason. Then there’s unique views, one person viewing a page ten times means one thing, ten people viewing the page once each means something else. Adding to this there are other metrics, such as time on page, page exits (if they leave the page, can we see where they go) and eventually building pathways through a site.
So, what’s my point?
What Google reports is really hard to read into but there’s a few changes to Moodle code (really small changes) which makes this data far more useful. Over the coming year I hope we can make these changes, and next year, report back on what the data says about Moodle usage. We want to know what’s popular (read: working) and what isn’t (read: not?).
Informative and technical links:
Perhaps mostly useful for the technically inclined, but it’s what we work with to make Moodle more useful for you.