For the past 10 years, developers of online environments have had a great need to understand how people operate in different environments. The more the internet is used in daily activities, the more valuable this information is. Commercial operators, such as Google, do this work all the time.
“When we talk about online environments in the context of teaching and learning, things are still in their infancy. Although plenty of research is already being done on this subject, we do not yet have enough information on how digital learning platforms and the information collected from them could be used effectively in different learning environments. However, they could be a great help to both learners and teachers, and they could also be the ‘next step’ in research addressing learning and teaching processes,” says Professor Laura Hirsto, the director of the project.
Making data easily understandable
Because online environments have been used in teaching for years already, various data on learning and teaching processes are starting to cumulate. However, the storage and appropriate use of the data still require a lot of joint reflection.
“For a platform to provide optimal support for learning, teaching and pedagogical decision-making, it should also provide both teachers and learners with relevant data, and visualised data.”
For example, learners should see what stage their subject or course is at, when different assignments are due, and what should be done before that. They should also be able to qualitatively and quantitatively monitor their own learning and its level in real time so that everyone could improve their weaker areas, if they so wish. Ultimately, it should be possible to assess whether everything as a whole went as it should have, and to what extent the desired things or skills were learned.
“Teachers, on the other hand, should be able to obtain up-to-date information on how learners proceed in their studies and assignments, which assignments possibly are difficult, and what the achieved level of learning is. For example, if it seems that an assignment is challenging to several learners, it would be good to consider where more attention should be directed in teaching at that point. Also, it is possible to deal with difficulties right away.”
As the amount of data increases, it is also possible to understand learner behaviour. A teacher may notice that a certain method of teaching or an activity presents challenges to certain learners or, correspondingly, helps them to move forward.
“It would also be easier to tailor and recommend further training to more targeted groups according to their competence development needs,” Hirsto sums up.
Furthermore, all this should be easily visualised so that teachers and learners could easily understand the analytics. Visualisation would make it easier for both to draw conclusions on learning, and on the needs and focus of teaching.