This paper describes an application of learning analytics that builds on an existing research programme investigating how students contribute and attend to the messages of others in asynchronous online discussions. The implementation was conducted in a semester‐long blended graduate seminar on educational
technology consisting of nine first‐ or second‐year doctoral students and one instructor.
Two kinds of analytic were designed: one set provided students with real‐time information on their activity; others were presented to students in a separate digital space for reflection.
Findings from an initial implementation of the application indicate that the learning analytics intervention supported changes in students’ discussion participation. Many students used the analytics to set, enact, and reflect on goals for their discussion forum activity. The most common change that students made after their introduction related to the percentage of their peers’ posts that they read.
The authors identify five issues for future work on learning analytics in online discussions
- Analytics may prompt unintentional as well as purposeful change
- The same analytic will prompt a variety of learner responses
- Learners need to understand why the analytics are relevant to their learning and how they are calculated
- The affective components of students’ reactions need to be taken into account
- Students need support in the process of enacting analytics‐driven change.