Reporting back on OWD 2014

This is a report back about at the Onderwijsdagen in specific about Learning Analytics.

I should introduce myself. Alan Berg Co-Chair of the Special Interest Group at SURF for Learning Analytics and member of the Innovation Work Group.

OWD are three days of events organized with the support of SURF (http://www.deonderwijsdagen.nl/), reaching a wide national audience. SURF actively busy in a number of themes and their intersections. Learning Analytics being one theme. The example intersection being the relationship between LA and Open Online Education.

Before discussing one of my domains of interest, let’s point at a few excellent presentations captured on video. In no particular order, these are:


Jason Ohler, has a clear perspective that you almost plan innovative new services around. Sharon Klinkenberg works at UvA and is an expert in his Field. His knowledge and evangelism radiate outwards. Pero de Bruyckere is well researched, humorous and a sanity check on our own perspectives.


With my SIG LA hat and SURF supplied T-shirt on I presented twice:

The first subject was ‘Grand challenges’ voor learning analytics en open en online onderwijs. The presentation description was: In deze sessie vertellen Alan Berg en Robert Schuwer over (een inventarisatie van) de ‘grand challenges’ die er zijn op het snijvlak van learning analytics en open en online onderwijs. In het kader van het door OCW ondersteunde programma Open en online onderwijs gaat SURF de komende maanden een aantal nieuwe activiteiten op dit gebied oppakken. Een van de eerste onderwerpen is de verbinding tussen learning analytics en open en online onderwijs. 

De eerste stap is het in kaart brengen van uitdagingen voor open en online onderwijs waarvoor learning analytics mogelijk oplossingen kan bieden, en van uitdagingen voor learning analytics waarbij vormen van open en online onderwijs voor antwoorden kunnen zorgen. In deze sessie presenteren Alan Berg en Robert Schuwer de eerste resultaten van een brede inventarisatie van deze ‘grand challenges’. Er is gelegenheid voor eerste reacties en aanvullende ideeën. 

I enjoyed the interaction with Robert Schuwer, it is relaxing to share a podium with someone who can pick up questions outside my main area’s of expertise. The room was filled and the audience was active. From the presentation, it was clear that the LA community is more research orientated than the OOO community. Within the LA community the trend is towards operationalization through services, but clearly we are in general behind in the service lifecycle race. It is also clear that the LA community has clearer short term challenges. For example, sorting out the ethics and privacy policies at the national level and how do we benchmark and validate services so that we can be sure of the products relative value to the Educational market.


A plug here for the need for a national decision tree (as suggested by Stefan Mol from UvA), where we can consistently find replies for any ethical, privacy and legal issues as we explore LA services.


The second presentation was Ethics & Privacy issues in the context of Learning Analytics with Maren Scheffel. The presentation description was:

During this session, participants will gain awareness of legal and ethical requirements for Learning Analytics tools and potential solutions. Participants will learn to properly address those requirements when implementing Learning Analytics in education.

The massive production, collection and processing of information from various learning platforms and online environments used have led to ethical and privacy concerns regarding individual and societal harms. Previously these types of concerns have impacted on areas as diverse as computer science, legal studies and surveillance studies. Within the SURF SIG Learning Analytics and the FP7 EU LACE project we conducted a series of workshops about issues and research challenges on ethical and privacy aspects in the emerging field of Learning Analytics. We  had asked for short descriptions of issues faced by Learning Analytics stakehoders. We organized an Ethics & Privacy Expert session with international experts in the field to find proper answers. 

Within this session we will present the initial insights gained and open the floor to the audience to contribute additional aspects from their organisations. For more details on the LACE community visit: http://www.laceproject.eu/lace/. For a report back from one of the workshops review: http://www.laceproject.eu/blog/learning-analytics-dilemmas-ethics-trusting-google-apps-teaching.

Maren, took the main load of presenting and fearlessly stepped into the philosophical shadows and grey area’s of ethics and privacy. +1 for the success of her mission.

The first and foremost lesson from the presentation was that the audience/ crowd (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wisdom_of_Crowds) is wise and should contribute to forming policy. The question therefore is how to make contact and pull further into the feedback process. For the ethics and privacy workshop the results were stored in an Open Book. We should moderate the modification of the open book by the crowd. The book acting as an oracle for policy debate.

The second interrelated theme was the bugger is in the detail. Lot’s of gaps and complexity. No one person can cover all the potential for inconsistency or incorrectness. We need to shine a light in this area with all the stakeholders and balance their needs.


The third theme was that Privacy by design should be a driving principle for any large scale deployments of LA (http://www.privacybydesign.ca/index.php/privacy-policies-enough-need-software-transparency/). One can even argue that this is a conversation that we should widen to our cloud services and the moral responsibilities we have as suggested by the themes behind Privacy laws.


Sadly, I did not have time to view other LA presentations, such as:

  • Blended learning als manier om studiesucces en studierendement te verhogen
  • Aspecten van learning analytics bij een digitale leeromgeving

If you read this and were in the presentation I hope I can motivate you to blog here…

Looking forward to OWD 2015 and seeing how far we LA progressed.

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