Dr. Anna Lea Dyckhoff


Action Research and Learning Analytics in Higher Education (June 2014)

Teaching is a dynamic activity. It can be very effective, if its impact is constantly monitored and adjusted to the demands of changing social contexts and needs of learners. This implies that teachers need to be aware about teaching and learning processes. Moreover, they should constantly question their didactical methods and the learning resources, which they provide to their students. They should reflect if their actions are suitable, and they should regulate their teaching, for example by updating learning materials based on new knowledge about learners, or by motivating learners to engage in further learning activities.

In the last years, a rising interest in learning analytics is observable. This interest is motivated by the availability of massive amounts of educational data. Also, the continuously increasing processing power, and a strong motivation for discovering new information from these pools of educational data, is pushing further developments within the learning analytics research field. Learning analytics could be a method for reflective teaching practice that enables and guides teachers to investigate and evaluate their work in future learning scenarios. However, this potentially positive impact has not yet been sufficiently verified by learning analytics research.

Another method that pursues these goals is action research. Learning analytics promises to initiate action research processes because it facilitates awareness, reflection and regulation of teaching activities analogous to action research.

Therefore, this thesis joins both concepts, in order to improve the design of learning analytics tools. Central research question of this thesis are: What are the dimensions of learning analytics in relation to action research, which need to be considered when designing a learning analytics tool? How does a learning analytics dashboard impact the teachers of technology-enhanced university lectures regarding "awareness", "reflection" and "action"? Does it initiate action research? Which are central requirements for a learning analytics tool, which pursues such effects?

This project followed design-based research principles, in order to answer these research questions. The main contributions are: a theoretical reference model that connects action research and learning analytics, the conceptualization and implementation of a learning analytics tool, a requirements catalogue for useful and usable learning analytics design based on evaluations, a tested procedure for impact analysis, and guidelines for the introduction of learning analytics into higher education.