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Workplace Learning and Learning Analytics

April 15th, 2015 by Graham Attwell

I have been looking hard at Learning Analytics in the last month. In particular, as part of the European EmployID project application, as a bit of a not really thought through objective, we said we would experiment with the use of Learning Analytics in European Public Employment Services. this raises a series of issues which I will come back to in future ports. It seems to me that whilst there is much talk around the potential of  Learning Analytics in the workplace, there is very limited research and actual applications.

One of the reasons for this is that so much learning in the workplace in informal. As Boud and Hager (2012) say:

learning is a normal part of working, and indeed most other social activities. It occurs through practice in work settings from addressing the challenges and problems that arise. Most learning takes place not through formalized activities, but through the exigencies of practice with peers and others, drawing on expertise that is accessed in response to need. Problem-solving in which participants tackle challenges which progressively extend their existing capabilities and learn with and from each other appears to be common and frequent form of naturalistic development.

I would also add that much workplace learning is also driven through personal interest – a fact that is largely ignored and which has considerable economic implications in terms of workplace competence development. Although we can dream of a world where water cooler conversations are recorded by smart devices and sensors and added to other traces of digital activity, I am not sure this is a desirable outcome. So we have a challenge. most (university and formal education based) learning analytics focus on analysing digital interactions in, for example, a VLE. How can we sensibly and ethically extend data capture and analysis to informal workplace learning?

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One Response to “Workplace Learning and Learning Analytics”

  1. I’m not sure I know of any strong examples of, or research on, the use of learning analytics in the workplace. As you indicate, learning at work is tightly integrated with work, therefore any analytics would have to monitor the tools and software the individual uses to do their job, not any separate learning environment. This is fraught with difficulty, esp. in an era of BYOD and blurred boundaries between professional and personal activities in twitter, facebook, linkedin, etc.

    While not focused on learning analytics, we’ve written about how informal learning might be supported in the workplace through lightweight tools that integrate closely into workspaces but facilitate learning. See:
    Milligan, C., Littlejohn, A., and Margaryan, A. (2014) Workplace learning in informal networks. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, North America, 0, mar. 2014. Available at: http://jime.open.ac.uk/article/view/325 . Date accessed: 5 March. 2015.
    and
    Milligan, C., Margaryan, A., & Littlejohn, A. (2012). Supporting goal formation, sharing and learning of knowledge workers. In Ravenscroft, A. et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of European Conference on Technology-Enhanced Learning (EC-TEL), LNCS 7563 pp. 519—524. Heidelberg: Springer. [post-print from ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262316404_Supporting_goal_formation_sharing_and_learning_of_knowledge_workers ]

    By creating tools that support learning at work we begin to get a little closer to something we might want to measure!

    In a similar vein (and research, rather than just writing), Melody Siadaty, Jelena Jovanovic and Dragan Gasevic wrote a chapter for us a year or so ago that explored the potential of the social Semantic Web to support learning, drawing on (amongst other things) their experience of developing and implementing tools in the Intelleo EU project.

    Siadaty, M., Jovanovic, J., & Gasevic, D. (2014) The Social Semantic web and workplace Learning, in A. Littlejohn, & A. Margaryan (eds) Technology Enhanced Professional Learning: Processes, practices and tools. (pp. 132-143). London: Routledge.

    That book also contains a chapter by Bettina Berendt and Rina Vourikari discussing the use of platform based learning analytics in the eTwinning teacher network.
    Berendt, B., Vuorikari, R., Littlejohn, A., & Margaryan, A. (2013). Learning Analytics and their application in technology enhanced professional learning. In Littlejohn, A., & Margaryan, A. (Eds.). Technology-enhanced professional learning: Processes, practices and tools (pp. 144-157). London: Routledge.

    Hope some of this is helpful.

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