Learning Management Systems offer not only tools to teach and assess, but also many forms of analytics to help all stakeholders monitor students’ progress with curricula and engagement. Most LMSs provide the same types and levels of analytics, and online instructors should know what these are and how they are used. Within these types and levels, there are a few specific reports that a teacher should check routinely. Using these reports, teachers can analyze and evaluate the course materials and instruction, and these reports help the teacher provide efficient feedback.
LMSs offer three types of analytics: institutional, engagement, and learning. Institutional analytics include student profiles and education history, and these data help schools identify students who might be at-risk and improve recruiting practices, but most K-12 administrators and teachers will use the engagement and learning analytics more frequently. Engagement analytics offer data on student activity within the LMS like number of logins, page views, discussion board contributions, and completed assignments. Learning analytics reveal a student’s progress within the curriculum, and can show mastered content or areas of struggle.
Another way to think about analytics is the four different levels of analysis: student, teacher, course, and program. Student reports show a mixture of engagement and learning analytics, like current class averages, class grade reports, and how frequently and for how long students engage with the LMS. Teacher reports include the basic student data. These allow a teacher to view course averages, such as the class’s overall average, but also average success on assessments and participation in discussion forms. Course level analytics enable schools to compare classes taught by different teachers and to evaluate specific course materials. Finally, program level analytics allow schools to compare themselves to other schools using the same software. For example, Study Island offers analytics comparing the local school’s progress in a standard to other schools across the state and country. This background information is good to know, but the online teacher will mainly use reports to evaluate his/her own teaching and content and to encourage and instruct individual students.
Whole-class grade reports, whether the class average or the average on an assessment, will let the instructor know whether the class performed the task well. If the average is unexpectedly low, the teacher should investigate whether students didn’t learn the content the way it was presented, or if they didn’t understand the task. After a class discussion about the low average, a teacher might also investigate engagement reports to see how long students worked on a particular skill or how many times they attempted a task. Beyond reviewing the assessment with students and asking for their feedback, the teacher might consider reworking the content using a different delivery method (for instance, a video modeling the skill instead of a video explaining the skill).
The online instructor can use student reports, too, for identifying individuals who need extra support. By reviewing student grade reports and participation, an instructor can know when to offer encouragement and additional support. Reports that analyze instructional standards show which specific concepts the student struggles with. The instructor should not only look for students falling behind, but also use analytics to identify students who are excelling in the assignments and who are participating regularly and frequently. These students should be praised and challenged further.
Analytics help teachers connect and assess their students and their teaching. Today’s data-driving obsession demands that decisions be based on facts and analysis. Education demands as much from students, as well. Although these reports, charts, and graphs seem like an impersonal approach to education, online teachers should not believe this reduces individuals to numbers. Rather, analytics let teachers personalize instruction and help them know when and how to reach out to their students.