All posts by Timothy Harfield

Learning Analytics using Microsoft Excel

By Timothy D. Harfield

Patrick Leblanc (Microsoft Education) facilitated an engaging and informative lab at Emory University

On Wednesday, February 11, 2015 Patrick LeBlanc (Microsoft Education) delivered a half-day workshop on using Excel for extracting, cleaning, modeling, and visualizing educational data. The benefit of using Excel for Windows (Unfortunately, MS Excel for Mac is not yet as fully featured) in conjunction with Power Query, Power View, and Power Pivot is that it allows users to do complex modeling using an environment that is familiar and that we already license. For users lacking experience with statistical/machine learning packages, the visual environment and extensive library of built-in functions means that they can get to work without first being faced with a steep learning curve.

The combination of Power Query and Power Pivot serves to do much of the work that is currently done by other tools that Emory and its personnel currently license (including Pyramid BI and Tableau), but with the added advantage of allowing users to easily integrate data from a wide number of sources including our LMS data warehouse (Blackboard Analytics for Learn), flat files, and social media. Patrick also introduced a new Microsoft cloud service called Power BI, which makes it easy to share data models and reports. Unfortunately, the fact that this is a cloud-based solution means that its use requires users to upload their data to Microsoft servers, something that should not be done with any institutional data, let alone educational data. Until such a time as Power BI is fully assessed in terms of both Emory’s security and institutional data management policies, the service should not be used for anything except non-institutional data.

The workshop was a tremendous success, with many expressing their gratitude to Patrick, and their desire for him to return for more workshops in the future. The four hour lab went through a lot of material in a very short period of time. As a proof of concept, however, it is clear that this kind of session has a tremendous amount of value for the Emory community, and we look forward to having Patrick back next year for a series of deep dives and hands-on BYOD (Bring Your Own Data) sessions.

K-12 Lessons and Higher Education Opportunity

By Timothy D. Harfield

Dr. Ben Sayeski is Managing Partner of Education Strategy Consulting Dr. Ben Sayeski is Managing Partner of Education Strategy Consulting

Our spring 2015 series of learning analytics brown bag seminars opened today with a stimulating discussion led by Dr. Ben Sayeski, Managing Partner of a Virginia-based educational analytics firm called Education Strategy Consulting. In addition to demonstrating the visualization tool that ESC has successfully deployed in k-12 school districts all over the nation, he also demonstrated the value that can be gained in higher education through the visualization of even openly available data sets (like from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), for example).
Continue reading K-12 Lessons and Higher Education Opportunity

Stimulating our Data-Imaginations in Spring 2015

Our first brown-bag seminar of the semester will take place next Wednesday (28 January 2015) from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM in Woodruff Library Rm 208E. Please RSVP by email to Timothy Harfield (tharfie [at] emory [dot] edu by Friday, 23 September 2015 so that we can ensure that our space can comfortably accommodate all who plan to attend.

Our meeting will be facilitated by Dr. Ben Sayeski (Managing Partner, Education Strategy Consulting), who will lead a discussion about the ways in which he has leveraged big data in K-12, and opportunities for similar work in Higher Education. The full abstract for this seminar is as follows:

K-12 Lessons and Higher Education Opportunity
This presentation and discussion will focus on the evolution of big data analyses in K-12 education and the opportunities for higher education. The discussion will be grounded in research from the Los Angeles Unified School District, publicly available K-12 data from the state of Georgia, and publicly available data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. All data will be presented within a visualization tool in order to address specific questions from attendees and create questions for future consumption. Particular attention will be paid to the visualizations from a variety of stakeholder perspectives including policy, professional, students, and parents.

This semester, the general goal of our brown bag series is to stimulate our data-imaginations in order to gain a richer idea of how various types of educational data can be put to use. In addition to Ben Sayeski, our series will also include seminars led by Nancy Bliwise (Emory University), Kimberly Arnold (University of Wisconsin-Madison), and Mike Sharkey (Blue Canary). Our season will conclude with a session led by Timothy Harfield, which will provide an overview of the learning analytics work being done at Emory, a description of how far we’ve come, and an opportunity to reflect upon the future of learning analytics at Emory University. For complete details, our full seminar schedule is available to view HERE.

All this amounts to what is certain to be an engaging and fruitful set of events.

Using ALEKS and Learning Analytics in Chem 141 to Revitalize Course Experience

In today’s ALE Brown Bag Session, Emory Chemistry Lecturer Tracy McGill presented on the innovative ways in which she is using ALEKS to ‘flip the classroom,’ and inform decisions about course design, and overcome emotional obstacles to learning.

Tracy McGillTracy recently flipped her General Chemistry classroom with the aid of an artificial intelligence teaching tool called ALEKS. Adaptive learning tools can do an excellent job of facilitating student mastery of basic concepts. This kind of mastery, however, refers only to the ability to remember and understand simple concepts and problems (the two most basic levels of intellectual behavior identifies by Bloom’s Taxonomy). Too often, class time ends up being used to introduce basic concepts, and homework consists in leaving students working through complex problems on their own. But the adaptive nature of a tool like ALEKS makes it demonstrably more effective at ensuring concept mastery than an individual instructor, particularly when that instructor is facing a room of hundreds of students. What Tracy has done, then, is assign ALEKS as homework in advance of class, and use class time to go over more complex problems, that require higher orders of intellectual behavior.

Continue reading Using ALEKS and Learning Analytics in Chem 141 to Revitalize Course Experience

Call for Participation


Analytics for Learning at Emory invites applications to participate in an intensive, day-long symposium on the use of data to inform decisions about learning environments and instructional design.

The Southeast Educational Data Symposium (SEEDS) will bring together administrators, researchers, and instructors to share how they are making use of educational data to foster student success, and to generate opportunities for ongoing collaboration in the Southeast region. The day’s schedule will include a morning keynote, delivered by Carolyn Rosé (Carnegie Mellon University), followed by four panel discussions. The all-day event will be held on Friday, February 20, 2015 from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM EST at the Emory Conference Center in Atlanta, GA.

Continue reading Call for Participation

Framework for using Learning Analytics for D Min Program Assessment & Improvement

Roxanne Russell’s presentation today set an incredible tone of our Brown Bag talks this year.

After providing an overview of the new online Doctor of Ministry program in the Candler School of Theology, she offered the group a framework for program evaluation that emphasized the importance of meeting student expectations for their experience of the program. She suggested five key areas of student experience that have an impact on student perceptions of program value:

  1. Faculty Interaction
  2. Peers
  3. Curriculum
  4. Content
  5. Manageability

Continue reading Framework for using Learning Analytics for D Min Program Assessment & Improvement

Learning Analytics: What Is It? Why Do It? And How?

Emory University Laney Graduate School students are invited to attend for the first Teaching Assistant Training and Teaching Opportunity (TATTO) Extension Brown Bag. These brown bag sessions will focus on topics related to teaching that were not covered in TATTO. Please see below for details about this session.

Students should bring their own lunches.

  • Introduction to Learning Analytics
  • Featuring Timothy Harfield, Woodruff Library Scholar in Residence (Learning Analytics)
  • September 10, 12-1pm
  • Callaway C101

Learning analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs. Data driven approaches to teaching and learning are rapidly being adopted within educational environments, but there is still much confusion about what learning analytics is, what it can do, and how it is best employed.

This talk will provide a general overview of the field of learning analytics, its terminology and methods, as well as contemporary ethical debates. It will also introduce several open source and Emory-supported analytics tools available to students and instructors to facilitate the achievement of various learning outcomes.

Teaching and Learning in an Evolving Educational Environment

October 15, 2014 | 12:00pm – 1:30pm
Speaker: Charles Dziuban (University of Central Florida)

Chuck will present outcomes from twenty years of research on the concept of learning analytics through an effective teaching and learning perspective. He will compare student success rates in varying course modalities in addition to preference for instructional formats. He will show the characteristics of excellent instructors from the student point of view using concepts such as the Anna Karenina Phenomenon. Finally he will present examples of how individual faculty members at the University of Central Florida are undertaking an analytic approach to improving their courses with the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Presentation Slides

Speaker Bio:
Charles DziubanCharles Dziuban is Director of the Research Initiative for Teaching Effectiveness at the University of Central Florida (UCF) where has been a faculty member since 1970 teaching research design and statistics. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. Since 1996, he has directed the impact evaluation of UCF’s distributed learning initiative examining student and faculty outcomes as well as gauging the impact of online, blended and lecture capture courses on the university. Chuck has published in numerous journals including Multivariate Behavioral Research, The Psychological Bulletin, Educational and Psychological Measurement, the American Education Research Journal, the Phi Delta Kappan, the Internet in Higher Education, the Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, and the Sloan-C View. His methods for determining psychometric adequacy have been featured in both the SPSS and the SAS packages. He has received funding from several government and industrial agencies including the Ford Foundation, Centers for Disease Control, National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. In 2000, Chuck was named UCF’s first ever Pegasus Professor for extraordinary research, teaching, and service and in 2005 received the honor of Professor Emeritus. In 2005, he received the Sloan Consortium award for Most Outstanding Achievement in Online Learning by an Individual. In 2007 he was appointed to the National Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Literacy Policy Council. In 2010, Chuck was named an inaugural Sloan-C Fellow. In 2012 the University of Central Florida initiated the Chuck D. Dziuban Award for Excellence in Online Teaching for UCF faculty members in honor of Chuck’s impact on the field of online teaching.

Chuck has co-authored, co-edited, or contributed to numerous books and chapters on blended and online learning including Handbook of Blended Learning Environments, Educating the Net Generation, and Blended Learning: Research Perspectives. He has given invited presentations on how modern technologies impact learning at more than 80 colleges and universities worldwide. His new book Blended Learning Research Perspectives II, co-edited with Anthony Picciano and Charles Graham was released in the fall of 2013.

Event Sponsor
Institute for Quantitative Theory and Methods
In Cooperation With
Society for Learning Analytics Research

Advancing University Teaching and Learning with Analytics: Linking Pedagogical Intent and Student Activity through Data-Based Reflection

November 17, 2014 | 12:00pm – 1:30pm
Speaker: Alyssa Wise (Simon Fraser University)

Learning analytics are data traces of student activity that can be used to better understand and support learning processes and outcomes. Over the last few years there have been remarkable advances in our ability to calculate and display useful information about what students are doing. Now, we face the important challenge of how to mobilize this intelligence to have a meaningful impact on university teaching and learning. To do so, we need to consider and design for the ways in which learning analytics can become a part of (and change) the activity patterns of instructors and students. Working within the scope of the university course, I describe ways to integrate learning analytics into teaching and learning processes by using data-informed reflection to probe the connections (and disconnects) between instructors’ and designers’ pedagogical intents and students’ actual activity patterns. Particular attention will be paid to roles for students in the process, and the use of different reference frames for data interpretation. To ground the discussion, work from the E-Listening Project at Simon Fraser University will be presented as an initial example of a learning analytics application developed and implemented in a university course using such an integrated approach.

Presentation Slides

Speaker Bio:
Alyssa Friend WiseAlyssa Friend Wise is an Associate Professor with the Educational Technology & Learning Design Program at Simon Fraser University in Canada. Her research examines how people interact with each other through technologies and how such interactions can contribute to learning. Recent work includes the E-Listening Project (research into how participants attends to others’ comments in online discussions), the development of Youtopia (a collaborative table-top game about sustainability issues), and the creation of a model for Learning Analytics Interventions (a pedagogical approach to help students work with data collected on their learning as part of the educational process).

Towards Long-Term and Actionable Prediction of Student Outcomes

February 9, 2014 | 12:00pm – 1:30pm
Speaker: Ryan Baker

Towards Long-Term and Actionable Prediction of Student Outcomes using Automated Detectors of Engagement and Affect

In recent years, researchers have been able to model an increasing range of aspects of student interaction with online learning environments, including affect, meta-cognition, robust learning, and engagement.

In this talk, I discuss how automated detectors of engagement and learning can be used in prediction of long-term student outcomes, illustrating this with examples of how affect, engagement, and learning during middle school use of educational software can support prediction of student long-term success, including end-of-year learning, decisions about whether to attend college, and even what major a student chooses. These predictive models can in turn support inference about what factors make a specific student at-risk for poorer learning or lower long-term engagement in learning.

Speaker Bio:
Ryan BakerRyan Baker is Associate Professor of Cognitive Studies at Teachers College, Columbia University. He earned his Ph.D. in Human-Computer Interaction from Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. Baker was previously Assistant Professor of Psychology and the Learning Sciences at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and served as the first technical director of the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center DataShop, the largest public repository for data on the interaction between learners and educational software. He is currently serving as the founding president of the International Educational Data Mining Society, and as associate editor of the Journal of Educational Data Mining. His research combines educational data mining and quantitative field observation methods to better understand how students respond to educational software, and how these responses impact their learning. He studies these issues within intelligent tutors, simulations, multi-user virtual environments, and educational games.

Event Sponsor
Institute for Quantitative Theory and Methods
In Cooperation With
Society for Learning Analytics Research