Learning Analytics – No need for Standardized Testing in HE

For a number of years there have been rumours that standardized testing should be introduced into higher education. Standardization makes subjects taught at different institutions directly comparable. The research has been clear that the use of standardization is a way measure teachers and schools – even if the rhetoric says otherwise. Many educrats would love to have the ability to directly compare higher education teaching in the same way, but there has been great resistance to the idea. Not surprising when the most powerful voices in The Academy are those who’s reputations are based on trivial pursuit and not on teaching. When your primary focus is on trivial pursuit, nobody wants a close examination of real teaching and learning outcomes.

Learning analytics are the answer. We can mine the data to find out what is going on at a micro-level in order to design effective interventions for the sake of the students. Really…?

Well, we know that it is easy to compare the number of times a person accesses their LMS and their GPA. Checking out library books and GPA. Class attendance and GPA. LMS generated scores on quizzes and library access. Wi-Fi access times and places and GPA. Credit card use and library access. Mobile phone metadata and LMS access. Student loan size and class attendance. We can find out almost anything.

And then we can sell it to an un-named search and advertisement giant for a fortune. Oh, wait, we have already made a deal with them to supply us with the most up-to-date educational tracking, I mean learning tools available for a small fortune and they get the information for free.

Do we really believe that all this data is being used for benign purposes? Even if analytics aren’t directly benefiting the students with micro-customized learning support plans, the educational institutions are largely using the data to assist them in two vitally important areas for institutional success – marketing and the student experience.

In addition, we can easily target teachers and departments who’s learning outcomes (grades) are not at the level expected by the institution. It is very important for the marketing department to be able to advertise that the Cross Cultural Bio-degradable Chemical Textile and Film Making Trans-disciplinary department has an average GPA of 3.86 in order to attract the brightest students in the world. And if there is a teacher in the department who is not achieving the GPA standard acceptable to the institution, some supportive retraining (raise your grades) can be administered in order to support the institutional goals – attract more money, (I mean students) to the department.

You don’t need standardization in higher education any more. We have data analytics that can be applied post-hoc to achieve the same thing and tell us what we are looking for anyway.

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