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Learning analytics: challenges, paradoxes and opportunities for mega open distance learning institutions

Version 2 2023-12-20, 15:45
Version 1 2023-11-08, 11:17
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posted on 2023-12-20, 15:45 authored by Sharon Slade, Fenella Galpin, Paul Prinsloo
Despite all the research on student retention and success since the first conceptual mappings of student success e.g. Spady, there have not been equal impacts on the rates of both student success and retention. To realise the potential of learning analytics to impact on student retention and success, mega open distance learning (ODL) institutions face a number of challenges, paradoxes and opportunities. For the purpose of this paper we critique a ‘closed’ view of learning analytics as focusing only on data produced by students’ interactions with institutions of higher learning. Students are not the only actors in their learning journeys and it would seem crucial that learning analytics also includes the impacts of all stakeholders on students’ learning journeys in order to increase the success of students’ learning. As such the notion of ‘Thirdspace’ as used by cultural, postmodern and identity theorists provide a useful heuristic to map the challenges and opportunities, but also the paradoxes of learning analytics and its potential impact on student success and retention. This paper explores some of these challenges, paradoxes and opportunities with reference to two mega ODL institutions namely the Open University in the UK (OU) and the University of South Africa (Unisa). Although these two institutions share a number of characteristics, there are also some major and important differences between them. We explore some of the shared challenges, paradoxes and opportunities learning analytics offer in the context of these two institutions.

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