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Digital Education team blog


Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


What IT Directors care about

By Fiona Strawbridge, on 30 October 2016

IMG_7849I heard about the Campus Computing survey for the first time at Educause 2016 – but this survey has been around since 1990 – before, I suspect, the term e-learning had even been coined. This is a survey of CIOs’ (IT Directors’) perspectives on e-learning, amongst other things and I was intrigued to find out what they thought, so went to hear about it from Casey (Kenneth) Green, the Founding Director of CampusComputing.net. I haven’t managed to find the actual survey report, so what follows is a bit patchy, but in essence, CIOs’ have ‘great faith in the benefits of e-learning’, but Learning Analytics keeps them up at night.

Their top five priorities are:

  1. hiring and retaining skilled staff;
  2. assisting academics with e-learning;
  3. the network and data security;
  4. providing adequate user support;
  5. leveraging IT resources to support student success.

The trouble with learning analytics:

CIOs are consistently bothered about their institutions’ ability to deliver learning analytics capabilities and cited concerns with:

  • the infrastructure to deliver them;
  • effectiveness of investment to date;
  • sense of satisfaction with what has been delivered

There was a general sense that their ‘reach exceeded their grasp’ in this area.

What we do vs what we buy:

An interesting observation was that CIOs’ rating of services and facilities that are bought in or outsourced was higher than of those that are developed in house. ‘What we buy works better than what we do’.  Which is perhaps unsurprising, but rather depressing. The service that CIOs were happiest about was wifi!

If I manage to get a link to the report or presentation I will link to it here.

Moogle Analytics

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:

  1. Browse to the Moodle homepage
  2. Login
  3. View a course
  4. Send a forum message
  5. Log out

Data Trail

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)
  • Web software capabilities (Flash, Java, Javascript)
  • 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.

More soon!