SoLAR: now is the time


We’ve recently launched The Society for Learning Analytics Research (SoLAR) — an inter-disciplinary network of leading international researchers, exploring the role and impact of analytics on teaching, learning, training and development.

As these fields get to grips with the Big Data explosion, techniques for making sense of patterns in that data, and predictive models that seek to interpret those patterns (e.g. “This may be a student at risk of dropping out”; “This member of staff is a key broker between these two communities of practice”), new vistas are opening up. Established online learning companies are positioning themselves with new analytics dashboards, and new startups sense the opportunities.

Educational communities of administrators and practitioners (e.g. EDUCAUSE) and researchers (e.g. the new International Conference on Learning Analytics & Knowledge) see the need to respond to the opportunities in a learner-centred way.

Here’s why we set up SoLAR:

SoLAR exists to ensure that there is an expansive, transformative vision for what analytics might mean for the future of learning and to promote a very critical discourse that is non-partisan, and grounded as far as possible in practice-based research.

SoLAR activities include:

  • Overseeing the annual Learning Analytics and Knowledge conference,
  • Engage in collaborative research (particularly in the development of Open Learning Analytics Architecture),
  • Publications on the state and future of analytics in learning, training, and education
  • Consultations with government, educational leaders, and policy makers on analytics deployment and evaluation
  • Shared research with vendors and analytics providers

SoLAR defines learning analytics as the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs.

Stay in touch with SoLAR news, follow SoLAR on Twitter, join our Events and check out the Resources. If you would like to participate in general discussions around learning analytics, please join this Google Group.

SoLAR has just published a concept paper on Open Learning Analytics [PDF] in which we argue for the urgent need to develop an open platform to advance the field through data and algorithm sharing.

This report includes contributions from Social Learning Analytics, a report by I wrote with Rebecca Ferguson, and this video on analytics for learning to learn. We consider some of the power issues around analytics, and some of the ways in which analytics may serve not so much as a magnifying glass wielded by the institution to track learners, but a mirror for learners to reflect on the own learning process.


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