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S. Suhonen

Tampere University of Applied Sciences (FINLAND)
In this study, students’ online activity is studied on an elementary engineering physics course using learning analytics. Learning analytics means the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners. Many learning managements systems (LMS) offer built-in tools to record, view and analyse student’s online activity.

The course studied had a blended approach with both face to face teaching and online elements. All homework assignments were voluntary but accomplishing them had a slight positive effect on the course’s final grade. Due to the nature of the course, the homework assignments required the students to model the real-world situation with laws of physics, derive the necessary equations, solve them and carry out the calculations.

To accomplish a homework assignment, a student needed first to carry out the calculations with pen and paper, then scan or take a picture of his/her solutions and upload it to LMS, which in this case was Moodle. The students had the opportunity to watch video solutions to the assignments and they were asked to honestly report their homework activity to an online form. They could mark the accomplished assignments either as “made alone” or “made using videos”. The online form was public, so that all students were able to see each others markings. The reporting of one’s accomplishments was completely voluntary, but necessary to get the bonus points for final grade. The video solutions were available all the time. The idea was that the videos would help the students to overcome difficult aspects in assignments and they then could continue calculations by themselves.

In this study, learning analytics is used to study students’ behaviour in accomplishing and reporting homework assignments. Did the students report them honestly? How much time they used to a carry out the assignments? Did they watch the videos without reporting the usage? Moodle’s log files were transferred to Excel, with which all classification and analysis tasks were carried out. It should be noted however, that just because a student happens to be logged in and has opened an activity, does not necessarily mean that he or she is engaged in meaningful learning activity. Moreover, LMS cannot record such activities as reading the course book, or carrying out calculations on paper. Learning analytics offer a view to studying and learning activities, but it is not the whole truth. Despite the aspects mentioned, learning analytics offer a good way to get to know students actions, which would be impossible in traditional teaching.