Numbers not enough to change - Block 4, Activity 17

Macfadyen and Dawson (2012), argue in their paper Numbers are not Enough, that despite learning analytics being presented to peer staff members, they were not convinced enough to take up the offerings of their institution’s ‘Learning Management System’ and then alter or adapt their teaching practices according to the information the analytics could provide. They offer a number of reasons why this probably did not occur including:

  • perceived gain, or lack of gain in adopting new process
  • lack of time (linked to above)
  • decision makers being 'out of the loop' in getting most of technologies
  • loss of control at a departmental level to a central authority (the LMS)

What I cannot fathom though is that this paper makes no real reference to the efficacy of the LMS in helping staff members to teach, or even better, their students to learn better. It’s all taken as a matter of fact that this will enhance their learning. 

I remember this happening at a university that I used to work at where a commercial LMS was being implemented. What the implementing team seemed to forget was that there is a learning curve to using the technology, and there was no demonstrable gain. 

I think it is true that the paper that is cited (Rogers, 1995) that deals with resistance to innovation and change, is broadly speaking correct, it is also true to say that many innovations were broadly proclaimed as ‘the next big thing’ and then nothing really came of it. In the same university that I mentioned above, there was a massive push to make all the lectures be available online, or on demand by basically videoing lectures. What the implementers forgot was that there’s nothing quite like looking at a talking head for 60 minutes to send you into the land of nod (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz). 


Macfadyen, L.P. & Dawson, S. (2012) Numbers Are Not Enough. Why e-Learning Analytics Failed to Inform an Institutional Strategic Plan. Educational Technology & Society, 15, 149-163.

Rogers, E. M. (1995). Diffusion of Innovations (4th ed.). New York: Free Press.

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