Thursday, November 17, 2011

Engagement, Language Learning and Analytics

My family and I are traveling in Thailand as a part of our commitment to raising our adopted son Kai. Over the last two days we traveled from Vancouver to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. One of the main goals for this trip is to begin developing our Thai language abilities. Being immersed has reminded me that language learning is really hard and best done when you engage the learning content often and at regular small intervals.


Something that happened yesterday was the random meeting on the pool deck with a fellow named Peter Lutes, a lecturer with Kagawa University. He is in the process of setting up a dual degree program between Chiang Mai. Thailand and Kagawa, Japan. An interesting part of our conversation was regarding Learning Analytics and their growing importance toward blended and online learning.

All this got me thinking about Learning Analytics and the growth of this relatively new idea within education. In simple terms this idea is how to use ALL the meta-data that can be "harvested" from a learners online activities to improve the online learning experience, deepen learning and encourage completion. A small while back David Wiley put together an excellent post about applied learning analytics with great use of a google chart gadget.

To see this interactive visualization (play with it here). In the end I was thinking about how this applies to my current language learning task? What I took from David Wiley's post is that frequent and meaningful engagement with the learning content assists greatly with achieving results. And the neat thing about learning analytics is that this can be measured from the beginning and all through a course in great detail. In particular, with online courses all this detail data is available from log files and other data capture embedded in the software used during the online learning experience. If teachers can closely monitor the engagement they can intervene sooner so students are encouraged to engage and therefore achieve better results.

So... what does this have to do with language learning? Engage often, track my engagements, use a variety of approaches and don't stray from being disciplined in my practice.