Archive for the ‘Data’ Category

Data and the future of universities

August 2nd, 2018 by Graham Attwell

I’ve been doing quite a lot of thinking about how we use data in education. In the last few years two things have combined – the computing ability to collect and analyse large datasets, allied to the movement by many governments and administrative bodies towards open data.

Yet despite all the excitement and hype about the potential of using such data in education, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. I have written before about issues with Learning Analytics – in particular that is tends to be used for student management rather than for improving learning.

With others I have been working on how to use data in careers advice, guidance and counselling. I don’t envy young people today in trying to choose and  university or college course and career. Things got pretty tricky with the great recession of 2009. I think just before the banks collapsed we had been putting out data showing how banking was one of the fastest growing jobs in the UK. Add to the unstable economies and labour markets, the increasing impact of new technologies such as AI and robotics on future employment and it is very difficult for anyone to predict the jobs of the future. And the main impact may well be nots o much in new emerging occupations,or occupations disappearing but in the changing skills and knowledge required n different jobs.

One reaction to this from many governments including the UK has been to push the idea of employability. To make their point, they have tried to measure the outcomes of university education. But once more, just as student attainment is used as a proxy for learning in many learning analytics applications, pay is being used as a proxy for employability. Thus the Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) survey, an experimental survey in the UK, users administrative data to measure the pay of graduates after 3, 5 and 0 years, per broad subject grouping per university. The trouble is that the survey does not record the places where graduates are working. And once thing we know for a certainty is that pay in most occupations in the UK is very different in different regions. The LEO survey present a wealth of data. But it is pretty hard to make any sense of it. A few things stand out. First is that UK labour markets look pretty chaotic. Secondly there are consistent gender disparities for graduates of the same subject group form individual universities. The third point is that prior attainment before entering university seems a pretty good predictor of future pay, post graduation. And we already know that prior attainment is closely related to social class.

A lot of this data is excellent for research purposes and it is great that it is being made available. But the collection and release of different data sets may also be ideologically determined in what we want potential students to be able to find out. In the same way by collecting particular data, this is designed to give a strong steer to the directions universities take in planning for the future. It may well be that a broader curriculum and more emphasis on process and learning would most benefits students. Yet the steer towards employability could be seen to encourage a narrower focus on the particular skills and knowledge employers say they want in the short term and inhibit the wider debates we should be having around learning and social inclusion.

 

Living in an Algorithmic World

May 4th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

This video is from Danah Boyd’s opening keynote for the re:publica 18 conference. Although it is an hour long it is well worth watching. Danah says “Algorithmic technologies that rely on data don’t necessarily support a social world that many of us want to live in. We must grapple with the biases embedded in and manipulation of these systems, particularly when so many parts of society are dependent on sociotechnical systems.” That goes for education just as much as any other part of the social world.

Designing Learner Dashboards

May 2nd, 2018 by Graham Attwell


The UK Jisc are really good at producing on line reports of workshops and meetings (something which I am not!). This is one of the presentations from the Student Experience Experts Group meeting, two of which  events held every year to share the work of the student experience team at Jisc and to offer opportunities for feedback and consultation on current activities. The Jisc web page provides a brief summary of the meeting and all of the presentations. I picked this one by Liz Bennett from the University of Huddersfield because the issue of how to design dashboards is one which perplexes me at the moment.

Student satisfaction unrelated to learning behaviour and academic performance

March 13th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

I seem to spend a lot of time lately moaning about bad data practices. About approaches to learning analytics which appear to be based on looking at what data is available and the trying to think out what the question is. And particularly over the different proxies we use for learning.

So, I particularly liked the report in THE of the inaugural lecture by Professor Rienties at the UK Open Universitity’s Institute of Educational Technology. Professor Rienties outlined the results of a study that examined data on 111,256 students on 151 different modules at his institution. He found that student satisfaction, one of the most common used proxies for learning and achievement, is “unrelated” to learning behaviour and academic performance. According to THE:

Significantly higher student satisfaction was found in modules in which students received large amounts of learning materials and worked through them individually, than in courses where students had to collaborate and work together.

However, the best predictor for whether students actually passed the module was whether there were collaborative learning activities, such as discussion forums and online tuition sessions.

Students who were “spoon-fed” learning materials also spent less time in the virtual learning environment, were less engaged, and were less likely to remain active over time than their peers engaged in more collaborative activities.

Happy birthday, Graham Attwell!

February 16th, 2018 by Pekka Kamarainen

Today the fellow-bloggers on Pontydysgu site can congratulate Graham Attwell on his birthday. I hope there is no home-made rule that would prevent us from celebrating this day via his own website.  Cheers, Graham!

Years and more …

Why is there such a big gender difference in graduate employment

June 16th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

salaries grad

In our work on Labour Market Information Systems, we frequently talk about the differences between labour market information and labour market intelligence in terms of making sense and meanings from statistical data. The graph above is a case in point. It is one of the outcomes of a survey on Graduate Employment, undertaken by the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

Like many such studies, the data is not complete. Yet, looking at the pay by gender reveals what WONKHE call “a shocking picture of the extent of the pay gap even straight out of university, and how different subject areas result in a diverse range of pay differences.”

Understanding why there is such a gap is harder. One reason could be that even with equal pay legislation, employers simply prefer to employ male staff for higher paid and more senior jobs. Also, the graph shows the subject in which the students graduated, not the occupational area in which they are employed. Thus the strikingly higher pay for mean who undertook nursing degrees may be due to them gaining highly paid jobs outside nursing. Another probable factor in explaining some of the pay gap is that the figures include both full and part time workers. Nationally far more women are employed part time, than men. However, that explanation itself raises new questions.

The data from HESA shows the value of data and at the same time the limitations of just statistical information. The job now is to find out why there is such a stark gender pay gap and what can be done about it. Such ‘intelligence’ will require qualitative research to go beyond the bald figures.

Interpreting and presenting data

March 1st, 2017 by Graham Attwell

I have been working on the contents for week 4 of the free #EmployID MOOC on The Changing World of Work, taking place on the European EMMA platform and starting in late March. Week 4 is all about Labour Market Information – or as I prefer to call it, Labour Market Intelligence – and how we can use labour market data both for job seekers and young people choosing careers and by advisers and other professionals working in the careers and labour market domain.

One of the major challenges is how to represent data. This presentation, Data is beautiful: Techniques, tools and apps for sharing your results by Laura Ennis, provides some good practical advice on how to present data. It come from a talk she did at Leap Into Research 2017.

New Insights into UK society today from longitudinal research

December 8th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

Understanding Society has published its fifth annual report highlighting some of theinsights new topical policy-relevant research conducted recently using data from the annual survey which began in 2009 with around 100,000 individuals from 40,000 households.

To support the Insights 2016 launch, the team also published a topic guide on education. This guide explores the content available to analyse in Understanding Society, highlights the types of research questions which could be explored and what research has already been carried out.

Making sense of data about education and jobs

June 6th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

restorer
High or low skills? Graduate job or not?

For a number years now I have been working on projects developing the use of open data for careers counselling, advice and guidance. This work has been driven both by the increasing access to open data but also by the realisation of the importance of Labour Market Information (LMI) for those thinking about future education and / or jobs. And of course with high levels of job insecurity, such thinking becomes more urgent and in an unstable economy and labuor market, more tricky.

Yet even if we clean the data, add it to a database, provide and open API for access and develop tools for data visualisation, interpretation is still not easy. Here is one case, taken from this mornings Guardian newspaper.

employment graph

 

Although the article is using the chart to show the rapid growth in knowledge intense occupations, I am not sure it does. Assuming that these are percentage change based on the original job totals, it probably show growth in low skilled jobs is far outstripping high skilled work, especially in the last 12 months. And that is taking into account that (once again probably) most job loss due to technology is focused din low skilled areas – e.g the quoted 70,00 jobs lost in supermarket check outs due to automation.

I am also interested to see from wonkhe that “The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) who have been running the Destination of Leavers Survey (DLHE) and its predecessors for 21 years, are now consulting widely on the future of assessing graduate outcomes.” For some time now there has been disquiet about the numbers of graduates working in ‘non graduate’ jobs. And that raises questions – just like the graph above focusing on high skills occupations – on just what a graduate job is. André Spicer, professor of organisational behaviour at the Cass Business School, City University London has cited “studies suggesting that the jobs which require degree-educated employees have peaked in 2000 and may be going down” and notes that many people apparently employed for their high-level specialist skills end up doing sales and marketing or fairly routine generalist work.

All this of course is highly subversive. Officially we are moving towards a high skilled economy needing more graduates and requiring higher level apprenticeships. My feeling in country slick Spain with high youth unemployment is what we need are apprenticeships in areas like construction and hospitality – both because they are sectors which can provide employment and also where higher skills are desperately needed to improve quality and productivity. Yet for governments there is an awful temptation to launch programmes in new ‘sexy’ areas  like games technologies despite the scarcity of jobs in these fields.

Tensions in Learning Analytics

May 27th, 2016 by Graham Attwell

The debate around Learning Analytics seems to be opening up. And although there is little sign of agreement over future directions, the terms of discussion seem both broader and more nuanced than previously. I think some of this is in response to the disillusionment of early researchers and adopters.

In yesterdays OLDaily, Stephen Downes pointed to an excellent article by Bodong Chen. Bodong points to the surge of interest in Learning Analytics but cautions that: “The surge of this nascent field rests on a promise–and also a premise–that digital traces of learning could be turned into actionable knowledge to promote learning and teaching.

He suggests that: “One approach to understanding learning analytics is to recognize what are not learning analytics” including academic analytics and educational data mining. Instead, he says “learning analytics is more directly concerned with teachers and learners by attending to micro-patterns of learning.”

Bodong draws attention to a tension between learning and analytics “as two pivotal concepts of the field” He points out that “learning analytics deals with educational phenomena at multiple levels”. As an example he says: “collaborative knowledge building as a group phenomenon depends on contributions from individuals, but cannot be reliably inferred from individual learning.”

Understanding and accepting that “the meaning of learning analytics as a term is plural and multifaceted” is an important basis for future research. Within the only just emerging field of workplace Learning Analytics, not only is there the issue of individual and collaborative learning and knowledge development but also issues around proxies for learning. Whilst performance in practice might be seen as a possible proxy, performance may also be seen to involve a wider range of factors, including the working environment, the division of work and opportunities for practice. And the already established field of Performance Analytics seems at considerable tension to learning.

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    Teenagers online in the USA

    According to Pew Internet 95% of teenagers in the USA now report they have a smartphone or access to one. These mobile connections are in turn fueling more-persistent online activities: 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis.

    Roughly half (51%) of 13 to 17 year olds say they use Facebook, notably lower than the shares who use YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat.

    The survey also finds there is no clear consensus among teens about the effect that social media has on the lives of young people today. Minorities of teens describe that effect as mostly positive (31%) or mostly negative (24%), but the largest share (45%) says that effect has been neither positive nor negative.


    Robots to help learning

    The TES reports on a project that uses robots to help children in hospital take part in lessons and return to school has received funding from the UK Department for Education.

    TES says “The robot-based project will be led by medical AP provider Hospital and Outreach Education, backed by £544,143 of government money.

    Under the scheme, 90 “tele-visual” robots will be placed in schools and AP providers around the country to allow virtual lessons.

    The robot, called AV1, acts as an avatar for children with long-term illnesses so they can take part in class and communicate with friends.

    Controlling the robot remotely via an iPad, the child can see and hear their teacher and classmates, rotating the robot’s head to get a 360-degree view of the class.

    It is hoped the scheme will help children in hospital to feel less isolated and return to school more smoothly.”


    Gutenburg

    According to developer Gary Pendergast, WordPress 5, Gutenberg, is nearing release.

    Pendergast says: “As the WordPress community, we have an extraordinary opportunity to shape the future of web development. By drawing on the past experiences of WordPress, the boundless variety and creativity found in the WordPress ecosystem, and modern practices that we can adopt from many different places in the wider software world, we can create a future defined by its simplicity, its user friendliness, and its diversity.”


    Adult Education in Wales

    Learning and Work Institute is organising this year’s adult learning conference in partnership with the Adult Learning Partnership Wales. It will take place on Wednesday, 16 May 2018 at the Cardiff City Stadium.

    They say “Changing demographics and a changing economy requires us to re-think our approach to the delivery of learning and skills for adults. What works and what needs to change in terms of policy and practice?

    The conference will seek to debate how can we respond to need, grow participation, improve and measure outcomes for citizens, and revitalise community education.”


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