One of the key characteristics of the EASI system is its ability to facilitate ‘nudges’. These nudges are small interventions conducted with students, students who are potentially struggling with their studies during the term. The nudge might take the form of an email to an individual or a mail-merge for a personalized message to multiple students. EASI allows academic staff to quickly identify students who might be struggling at any point during the term, and facilitates the execution of nudges so as to prompt students into re-engaging.
In a mechanical or simple system the response to a perturbation will generally be fairly easy to figure out as the results are determined by the perturbation. If a block of wood is nudged, knowledge of the conditions of the nudge (force, shape, mass, friction etcetera) is sufficient to both predict the result and explain the result (Davis & Sumara, 2006). The same is true for more complicated systems such as computers, mechanical and electrical systems. But such is not the case for complex systems. If you nudge a dog, the result will have nothing to do with Newtonian mechanics. The result in this case will be determined by the dog’s biological and experiential constitution. Humans are even more complex in this regard, as they have a broader repertoire of possible responses to the nudge (Davis & Sumara, 2006).
So the result arising from an action taken, an action based upon learning analytics provided information, is unpredictable. To me, this appears to suggest that a cyclical process is required for learning analytics. At least for learning analytics aimed at conducting interventions with ‘at risk’ students. There are some things to think about here with regards to IRAC framework. IRAC is a framework:
“that can be used to scaffold analysis of the complex array of, often competing, considerations associated with the institutional implementation of learning analytics” (Jones, Beer, & Clark, 2013).
The four components of the IRAC framework are:
- Information – Is all the relevant and only the relevant information available?
- Representation – Does the representation of the information aid the task being undertaken?
- Affordances – Are their appropriate affordances for action?
- Change – How will the information, its representation and affordances be changed or evolve?
One thing I think that we will need to explore further with regards to the IRAC framework is that it is a cycle. And I doubt that it is just a cycle with regards to the affordances part of the framework as the unpredictability of responses to nudges might indicate. The act of consuming analytics information even without any actions still has the potential to contribute to change in unpredictable ways. This has the potential to change the purpose or task that learning analytics was designed to address.
Davis, B., & Sumara, D. J. (2006). Complexity and education: Inquiries into learning, teaching, and research: Psychology Press.
Jones, D., Beer, C., & Clark, D. (2013). The IRAC framework: Locating the performance zone for learning analytics. Paper presented at the Electric Dreams., Sydney. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/sydney13/program/papers/Jones.pdf