Learning Analytics with Innovation - Block 4, Activity 8

There are 10 identified innovations written about by Sharples et al with regard to new innovations in open and distance learning, they are:

  1. Crossover learning
  2. Learning through argumentation
  3. Incidental learning
  4. Context-based learning
  5. Computational thinking
  6. Learning by doing science with remote labs
  7. Embodied learning
  8. Adaptive teaching
  9. Analytics of emotions
  10. Stealth assessment

The three that could be supported by learning analytics are:

  • Incidental learning
  • Adaptive teaching
  • Stealth assessment

Incidental learning

Incidental learning on the one hand seems ideally NOT suited to the ability for students to learn. However, the idea is that learning can occur incidentally whilst students are doing or exploring other things. Since much of this initial exploration is increasingly started by a person using a mobile device to look up a search engine for an issue (eg Bing or Google), the analytics from these search engines allows educators (or even AI in future iterations) to consider what kind of interests students have and then start suggesting, or even more subtly biasing information that they are interested in, more towards seeking connections to the formal learning tasks that they want/desire. In some future iteration the response might be from an online AI suggesting ‘Hey, Robin I see you’re browsing a lot about comics and visiting online comic stores - have you considered looking at Action Comics Issue #138, which mentions thermodynamics quite a bit?’.

However, this would assume that the AI would be sufficiently ‘webbed’ or networked to be able to make these cross connections. This technology clear is however, being utlised by the search engine companies that target advertisting to the interests of the learner.

Adaptive teaching

This is where the learning analytics is an extention of above, but basically the tasks that are formally set out for a student, can be changed ‘on the fly’ in an online environment to adapt to individual needs of learners. Currently the technology seems to be based on learning how fast a student goes through material and can adapt the kind & frequency of question-answer exercises to support the learning pace of a student. This is sort of an adaptation of the incidental learning but in a more formalised teaching rubric.

Stealth assessment

Finally stealth assessment is really a part of figuring out how well a student is progressing through a set of tasks. What is required in the first instance in the ‘adaptive teaching’ module above.

For the moment I cannot think how these analytics can be used in the immediate future to provide anything more than an assessment, and/or learning on progressive ‘stepped’ information or knowledge that might need to be built up over a logical sequence. That  means probably mathematics (and perhaps physics) teaching. The analytics can either speed up, or slow down the pace of online instruction and/or give some indication to a ‘live’ teacher, where students might be beyond the normal learning curves (ahead or behind) and therefore require a bit more face to face intervention/instruction. 

Curiously the titled ‘Analytics of emotions’ seems to be ideally suited to the use of analytics in education, and even though we were asked to ignore it (for this exercise) I wanted to note that I find the idea that a camera is observing you working, is just so prone to being misinterpreted, for instance much of my online learning is now conducted over at least three different devices, and I would not want to have (say) my mobile phone recording my viewing of the phone simply because it would have to occur whilst I was out and about, and that means using up valuable data. To say nothing of the fact that I use two screens on my desktop and sometimes use a tablet too. I think Sharples et al have completely got that one wrong.


Sharples, M. et al. (215) Innovating Pedagogy 2015: Open University Innovation Report 4. The Open University, Mitlon Keynes.

Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.  -Will Durant