Assessing Your Readiness for Implementation of Learning Analytics: Making a Start

Lindsay Pineda

Lindsay Pineda

Patrick Lynch

Patrick Lynch

This is a guest post by Lindsay Pineda and Patrick Lynch. Their bios are at the end of the article.

As an institution, you may find yourself asking, “How do I know if we are ready for learning analytics? Is there a way to ‘feel out’ where we are before having someone come onsite for a more official assessment? What kinds of things can I do on campus to prepare for an on-site Readiness Assessment?”

One of the main advantages of engaging in an on-site Readiness Assessment is that the event is tailored for your institution’s particular requirements. Our clients have confirmed for us that the “gold standard” in this work is to bring in people from outside of the organization to help facilitate this process. Institutions have told us:

  • “This is honestly the first time we’ve had all of these people together in one room to talk about a common goal.”
  • “Bringing someone in from the ‘outside’ onsite allows for an impartial view of the institution and it’s not muddied by an emotional connection to one thing or another. That is extremely valuable.”
  • “I have no idea how I would have been able to convince this many people to be in the same room together for this long without using the pull of Consultants coming in to assess us.”
  • “With someone coming in, no one seems particularly ‘suspicious’ about the intent behind the workshops. People are curious about who is here and what they intend to help us do so they actually show up.”

Making a Start

Through our experiences, we did find that there are activities an institution can undertake as “prep work” for the facilitated on-site Readiness Assessment. Getting people together for a sustained period is difficult. Getting disparate groups together is challenging and organizing senior leadership into any narrow time frame can be near impossible. We experience these obstacles ourselves while planning on-site visits with institutions.

In this article we present two activities that will help an institution better prepare for a shorter, more focused, external engagement with their on-site facilitators. This also provides the facilitators with richer information to help deliver the most value while onsite at your institution.

Areas to Investigate

One of the key elements of readiness is to consider the fit of a learning analytics project within the culture of the organization. This includes policies, processes, and practices that may be affected. Taking a broader view can help identify where existing projects and processes can support the initiative. For example, we have encountered change fatigue in a number of institutions. Wrapping activities together into one broader program is a great way to reduce the perceived number of changes, as well as help realize the advantages of interrelated projects. For example, an existing project at focused on ethics and privacy policies could also include those policies needed to support a learning analytics initiative.

Stakeholder Involvement

Given the broader approach to implementing learning analytics, a wide stakeholder group needs to be involved. Assessing readiness acts as a solid start to the project. It is a way to introduce colleagues to the goals of the project and benefits of implementing the initiative effectively. The assessment also assists with gaining buy in from the start. Key staff groups we have identified are:

  • Learning and Teaching support/development
  • eLearning/TEL
  • IT Services
  • Academic Tutoring/Advisement Services
  • Student Support Services
  • Research and Planning
  • Registrar’s Office
  • Key Thought Influencers
  • Senior Leadership (“Decision Makers”)
  • Faculty/Teachers
  • Library/Information Services

And last, but by no means to be considered least:

  • Key Student Union/Government Representatives

For each area, as appropriate, we would suggest having both academic staff as well as administrative individuals involved.

Having this broad range of departments together offers a good overall representation of the institution and allows for sharing of impact and ideas in a broader manner. Each of these areas brings a different perspective. It includes the individuals who will see the effects on the institution’s bottom line, who will carry out the actual work, who will provide interventions, along with the end users.

Activity Recommendations

The two activities we recommend are:

  • Setting Institutional Goals and Objectives
  • Determining Challenges and Obstacles

The first activity can be used as a starting point for goal setting, which will be iterated upon in subsequent activities. These two activities are specifically aimed at narrowing down the institution’s short and long term goals while identifying any major challenges/obstacles. This allows for the on-site efforts to center around the already identified goals, challenges, and obstacles.

Activity #1: Institutional Goals and Objectives

  • Why Is This Important?

  • Intended Outcomes of the Session

  • Duration

  • Setting and Structure

  • Resources and Supplies

  • Prerequisites

  • Who Should Be Involved?

  • Outputs

  • Summary of Hints and Tips

Activity #2: Challenges and Obstacles

  • Why Is This Important?

  • Intended Outcomes of the Session

  • Duration

  • Setting and Structure

  • Resources and Supplies

  • Prerequisites

  • Who Should Be Involved?

  • Outputs

  • Summary of Hints and Tips

Why Use an Outside Consultant?

While conducting the above activities can be very valuable for an institution to glean some initial insights, it is not realistic for an institution to undertake an entire Readiness Assessment on their own. The outcomes from the “prep work” activities above will provide the outside consultants with baseline information to build upon with institutional staff and students while onsite. Our recommended “prep work” activities above are meant to assist an institution for the preparation of an on-site, facilitated Readiness Assessment; not to replace it. There are several additional activities experienced facilitators will guide an institution through. Institutions have advised us that having someone come from the “outside” creates a sense of urgency and importance around the learning analytics project and the Readiness Assessment activities. This can be valuable to leverage.

Some of the other valuable areas that we provide for institutions as experienced Readiness Assessment facilitators are:

  • Introductions to learning analytics, including real world experience and examples
  • Student requirements scoping
  • Policies, processes, and practices insights
  • Ethics and privacy considerations
  • Technical/data considerations
  • Intervention considerations, guidance, and management

These areas, and many others, are discussed in a guided, collaborative, and facilitated manner through workshops, sessions, and activities. The findings from each Readiness Assessment are shared in a confidential final report format that is meant to provide broad insights into the institution’s collective readiness. There are also recommendations made for next steps in the learning analytics initiative journey.

We heard from several institutions that an on-site facilitated Readiness Assessment is an essential first step to engaging in a learning analytics initiative. One institution told us, “An on-site facilitated Readiness Assessment is an efficient, effective, and valuable part of starting a learning analytics initiative.”

Useful Reading:

 

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