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Transparency and Learning Analytics Improve Education

Bob Nilsson Director, Vertical Solutions Marketing Published 11 Feb 2016

Important insight from the UK for higher education institutions

“Higher Education is at a point of unprecedented uncertainty and change,” – From the foreword of From Bricks to Clicks; The Potential of Data and Analytics in Higher Education.

“More needs to be done to ensure that providers offering the highest quality courses are recognized. Students expect better value for money; employers need access to a pipeline of graduates with the skills they need; and the taxpayer needs to see a broad range of economic and social benefits generated by the public investment in our higher education system.” – From Fulfilling our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice.


In some quarters there is a deep, but unfounded, skepticism whenever governments or businesses strive to improve their nation’s educational systems. However, it is far from naïve to say that both governments and businesses have a strong vested interest in making sure their base of employees and citizens is the best educated in the world. Competition demands it. So when highly-regarded education visionaries publish their findings and recommendations, it is worthy of close attention, even when (perhaps especially when), those visionaries are associated with government or private business.

Fulfilling our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice, a UK green paper, sets out new proposals for higher education, including a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF); a concept applicable to higher education worldwide. The TEF includes a set of metrics to help students select schools and incentives to improve teaching. From Bricks to Clicks takes a look at the important role data and analytics play in improving education. It examines data collections, learning analytics, and barriers to implementing better data management. It then proposes how institutions can take advantage of the opportunities for greater engagement with analytics; and how students stand to benefit.

One of the recommendations of the report states, “Learning analytics should be driven by improvement of learning and teaching processes and student engagement. At the present early stage of maturity, we recommend that learning analytics is used for formative purposes, not summative purposes.”

Gaining visibility into application and network analytics to better understand learning is the purpose of Extreme Application Analytics by Extreme Networks. The product has fingerprints for 14,000 applications. When used in conjunction with a single-database network management and monitoring system, Extreme Control can help you to track and relate applications to users, devices, and locations. 

Students need to be connected with the resources they need – whether Institutional applications (VLE’s, admissions, etc.), social applications, collaborative or online media. To do this optimally, Extreme Identity and Access Control takes into account the time of day, location, proximity and other factors of the user and provides insight into how the resources are used. Visibility and control into who is using what ensures that:

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  1. Adequate resources, bandwidth and access methods are delivered to provide the best student experience
  2. Information on preferred applications can be fed directly to the academic team to ensure that learning pedagogies are kept up to date
  3. IT services will have a more informed and proactive relationship with the learner

Recommendation 8 of the Bricks to Clicks report states, “To be equipped for the future of higher education, institutions should ensure that digital literacy, capability and good data management strategies are an integral part of their strategic plans.”

The Experience Engine (TE2), a partner engagement with Extreme Networks, takes the output of Extreme Control Center, along with time, proximity, and identity in conjunction with systems already on campus, including admissions, library, VLE, etc., and delivers a contextual experience including. but not limited to:

  • Real-time updates & alerts
  • Interactive campus maps
  • Wayfinding
  • Schedule/event triggers
  • Campus security
  • Guest location

The final paragraph of the Bricks to Clicks executive summary states:

“If all institutions adopt good data management practices and follow our learning analytics principles, the sector will be in possession of a powerful dataset that may be especially relevant for the TEF. As learning analytics data provides a snapshot of how engaged students are and how well they are performing, this could be considered a useful indication of where excellent teaching is taking place. The Commission recommends that institutions should be encouraged to use the information from learning analytics systems to identify and foster excellent teaching within their institutions, and to consider using this information in their submissions to the TEF.”

If you would like to learn more about how analytics can improve education, please contact us. For UK readers, we can help you prepare for the TEF. For more information on TE2, email Daren Dulac.

This blog was co-authored by Andy Butcher, higher education evangelist, and Bob Nilsson, director of vertical solutions.

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