Κυριακή, 3 Μαρτίου 2013

Analytics: Logic and Structure (Assignment 1)


After reading the "Analytics in Progress: Technology Use, Student Characteristics, and Student Achievement", I found that the correlation between  family income with student achievent sounds  very interesting since it may answer to vital questions such as Does low family income mean higher need of more compact and efficient need of online learning? Does the economic crisis diminish the time for studying of learners and hence do they need more focused and personalised solutions? Does this situation make them more competitive?
Since the last 5 years the economic situation has changed dramatically, it would be very interesting to use historical data in order to identify the overall relationship between income and student performance.

Considering the Assignment desciption that is provided by the CN-1379-LAK2013, I decided to follow the question-based structure that the description of the assignment follows:

1. What do you want to do/understand better/solve?
I would like to identify the potential correlation between the last 5-year family income with the student performance in  terms of both formal assessment (assignment grades, final grades etc) and involvement in learning activities. In other words, I would like to understand if the economic crisis is mirrored in the behavior of students in the courses offered by the sole open university of Greece, the Hellenic Open University.
2. Defining the context: what is it that you want to solve or do? Who are the people that are involved? What are social implications? Cultural?
There are some questions that can justify my research question and help to define the context:
a. Does low family income mean higher need of more compact and efficient need of online learning? 
b. Does the economic crisis diminish the time for studying of learners and hence do they need more focused and personalised solutions? Does this situation make them more competitive?
c. Condifering the difficulties that occur after an economic crisis, are students more passionate to join a course and to get involved? Or, on the other hand, do they feel that some of their time for studying should be used for working?
d. Do the insecure feelings about the future affect the performance in an online course? Positively or negatively?

The communities involved in this problem are:
1.    Academic bodies such as Hellenic Open University (HOU) that offers online courses through environments such as Moodle etc. Their courses run through distance education procedures where the main body of the course is provided through Moodle, Lotus Quickr, and HOU2LEARN (an Elgg-based experimental PLE). Furthermore, 5 physical tutoring meetings take place each year for every course. HOU offers the basic set of material (hardcopy and software) and students are encouraged to procure additional content. An M.Sc in HOU consists of 5 courses and each of them costs ~800euros.
2.    Students are in their majority working people and they selected HOU for their studies because it offers curricula that can combine studies and work.
Social implications in this problem I propose, lay on the pressing economical situation of an average working person in Greece, who has to work harder in order to face it and on the other hand, has to be more qualified in order to increase the possibilities to do it successfully.

3. Brainstorm ideas/challenges around your problem/opportunity. How could you solve it? What are the most important variables?
Our research could start correlating the most important variables which appear to be: a. historical digital traces that every student leaves while uses the environments that HOU Offers, b. institutional and administrative data that concern assignments grades, final exams grades and level participation to the physical meeting for each student and c. information about the family income for each student for every year that he/she is student of HOU. Preferably, this research could give more useful results if it focuses on the students that have started their studies at least after 2008.

4. Explore potential data sources. Will you have problems accessing the data? What is the shape of the data (reasonably clean? or a mess of log files that span different systems and will require time and effort to clean/integrate?) Will the data be sufficient in scope to address the problem/opportunity that you are investigating?
The research could start collecting all historical data of the University during last 5 years. This historical data include all digital traces that Moodle, Lotus Quickr and HOU2LEARN have collected in their databases, along with the institutional and administrative data that concern assignments grades, final exams grades and level participation to the physical meeting for each student. Last but extremely important variable is the family income for every student every year.

Some of the issues that arise, are:
1. The database schema of Moodle, Lotus Quickr and HOU2LEARN: Are compatible each other? Technical issues such as if a student has the same id for each of them may require time and effort. Integration of databases of these three different systems are expected to require notable resources.
2. Is HOU aware of the family income of every student? Is the university willing to provide this data? Ethics and privacy issues have to be respected adequately. In case that HOU cannot give this data or doesn’t have it, what other alternative solutions may apply? For example, could a questionnaire be sent to the students about their past family outcomes and how their participation could be ensured?
3. It is a large scale project that requires a very smart exploitation of data. This means that after dealing with the mess of log files, and creating a clean database schema that integrates all systems and variables (grades and incomes), a sophisticated list of metrics that will measure the learning activity across the years and systems, has to be designed.

5. Consider the aspects of the problem/opportunity that are beyond the scope of analytics How will your analytics model respond to these analytics blind spots?
I do believe that this analytic model tracks the learning behavior of learners according their family outcome and responds to the in-financial-crisis era needs. This analytic model will help identifying how a distance learning course should be conformed according the new conditions that have arisen due to the economic crisis contributing thus to the design of an even more Personalized Learning Environment.
Finally, this analytics model could also be extended beyond the greek borders, creating a cross-country network, that include additional countries that face the economic crisis such as Spain, Italy and Portugal.


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