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Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


Learning Analytics as a tool for supporting student wellbeing – Introduction

By Samantha Ahern, on 20 November 2017

In September I presented at the Association for Learning Technology Conference. My talk was an argument that we should be doing more to support students, especially with the growing concerns around mental wellbeing, and my belief that learner analytics can and should be used to assist in this support.

This talk was recorded and can be viewed on YouTube: https://youtu.be/M9Fzdn943eE?t=48m9s

In addition to the talk, I would also like to share my preparatory work with you. This will be presented over a series of blog posts, of which this is the first.

Learning Analytics as a tool for supporting student wellbeing – Introduction

The last few years has seen a raise in awareness of mental health/wellbeing issues through campaigns such as Heads Together and of student mental health/wellbeing with a number of articles being published on this topic by The Guardian.

At the same time questions have been raised about the quality of support for students in our Higher Education Institutions, will many students complaining about the poor quality of personal tutoring and the lack of information their tutors have about them, the course they are studying and their progress.

Much of the data that would be useful in assisting the role of the personal tutor, is also useful in the analysis and improvement of teaching and learning. In the emerging field of learning analytics data is being leveraged predominantly with the aim of improving student retention and enhancing the student experience.  I therefore ask if we can apply learning (learner) analytics to better informing personal tutoring.

However, there is much debate around the ethical implications of learning analytics and the data protection and privacy rights of students. Due to the sensitive nature of mental health and the potential fatal consequences of mental ill-health this is further complicated.

Due to the scale of the mental wellbeing issue within our institutions and the duty of care to our students, should these outweigh other concerns?

These blog posts will discuss four key themes with regard to this question, these are: student mental health and mental wellbeing, the role and responsibilities of HE Institutions in supporting students’ mental wellbeing, how mental wellbeing issues can be identified and the role learning analytics could play in supporting student wellbeing.

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