WHEN I REVIEWED a set of tools on our Office 365 campus that I use to improve my third level teaching practise, I realised I should disclose to students how those tools monitor their activities. I'm thinking about how often I see disclosure statements on popular websites and how conscientious several education thought leaders have been when cautioning about the undesired effects of learner analytics.
I think it's valuable to know how active different learning zones are and I also believe it's important that I know who may need help because they fail to show requisite activity in and around learning materials their colleagues use to master important practical objectives.
I've surfaced six specific tools to offer explanations to my students about how I'm using the tools to track their progress.
OneNote Class Notebooks
I can see activity inside the Classroom OneNote collections while monitoring lab sessions. Outside the scheduled lab periods, the activity often arrives as notifications on my Android phone within a few minutes of students editing or producing content inside OneNote.
I use OneNote to offer helicopter views of learning materials as well as a place for students to answer overhead questions. Along the way, students discover the synchronicity that exists in coursework they complete simultaneously with colleagues in the same working documents.
Being able to see where colleagues have blocked out time for high priority work helps me set aside time and space for collaborative processes. It takes some persuading for people to openly share what they're doing but at the very least, it's extremely helpful to know when large cohorts of students are scheduled for field trips off the campus or when guest lecturers will visit to cover interesting topics. Putting these sorts of activities on a shared calendar helps reduce scheduling conflicts.
We use Moodle as our virtual learning environment. I back up all my major documents on both Moodle and in shared folders on OneDrive. Students have pointed out to me that they're able to sync my entire course to their laptops and tablets, taking away documents, slide decks, audio clips and video segments that they're able to review in greater detail. This is especially helpful for students speaking English as a second language and for students who have to work insane hours to cover their higher education costs.
As the screenshot below, I can see the time that has elapsed since a student last visited Moodle. This helps me zero in on people who do not appear to have looked at tasking documents.
Every document I share on OneDrive emits a signal that I can see in a quick glance when using Office Delve. A quick scroll of Delve shows me whether students have opened and edited specific pieces of work. This sort of activity can help predict the level of comprehension students have with difficult material. After all, if the files aren't opened and annotated as I direct in the active learning assignments, students won't be ready to go on to more difficult procedures.
Delve also shows whether a document has "leaked" beyond intimate working groups. I share some documents with very small teams, so if Delve shows double digit figures for openings, I know something may have been passed around farther than expected.
The colour coding and gamification elements of Contactually have given me a major boost in predictive learning analytics. Contactually listens to my office mail, to my Gmail and Yahoo accounts and to my phone's call register. It sees activities within 15 minutes of them occurring and amends a contact record for every student (faculty member, friend and random passerby) interacting with me via email, text or phone call. I can quickly sort Contactually by student cohort, by assignment, by location or by last contact date. Then I can work on the people who deserve the greatest attention (based on their lack of relevant activity).
I believe Contactually will give me the greatest leap forward when tracking effective contact time with my third level students.
Although Contactually provides me notification of emails I've sent to students, the low-cost Read Notify option is an email plug-in that I can teach to my digital media and social media students. It's quick to set up and reliable. Contactually records Read Notify activities since they come through the mail servers that Contactually dynamically observes.
I'm keeping running notes on these elegant technologies throughout the 2016/17 academic year and hope to present a well-documented case study at the May 2017 Irish Learning Technology Association Conference. I will preview this on-going work during the weekend Congregation in November 2016 in Cong, County Mayo.
+++ Bernie Goldbach teaches students earning degrees in business, creative multimedia, digital animation and sports management at the Limerick Institute of Technology.