A Day Contemplating Analytics


It has been a delightful day here today.

I have found myself thinking about and discussing analytics for much of the day.

I was fortunate to have lunch with two of my PhD students, Dr. Dennis Bryant and Dr. Ron Smith. Each Wednesday we have an unmeeting at the Mizzuna Cafe at the University of Canberra. Ron is a regular, this was Dennis’s first unmeeting with us. Chris Barnes and Mark Gawler were with us too.

Today’s unmeeting discussed Dennis’s research into students’ failing learning journeys which merged with Ron’s research about winning performance in football. The combination of failing and succeeding led to an extended conversation about pedagogy.

Earlier in the day I had posted about Performance Universals in which I was working through some ideas prompted by a paper at the #Ascilite2016 Conference that has been running in Adelaide from Sunday until this afternoon. (My notes as a remote participant following Twitter feeds for three days are here.)

My interest in the conference was twofold: I was keen to learn more about participants thoughts on educational technologies; and to follow conversations about Learning Analytics stimulated by the one day workshop organised by the Australian Learning Analytics Summer Institute.

At some point I would like to explore the connections between the burgeoning field of learning analytics, performance analysis in sport and sport analytics. There is so much to share.

The day was wrapped by following up on a link recommended by Darrell Cobner. He suggested that I look at Nick Clarke’s post Analytics is not just about patterns in big data.

I found time to tweet two quotes the post:

Nick’s post led me to a second post written by him earlier in the year. It has the delightful title Hyenas, lions and city lights – accurately measuring behaviour is rarely straightforward.

In the post, Nick argues for the rehabilitation of the image of the hyena. I thought his points were a great way to end my luxurious day:

Limited seeing leads to unreliable believing, an important lesson for our data-driven future.

The secret is to collect enough of the big picture alongside your targeted measurements, to establish the full context. When I built a data-driven condition monitoring system to combat poor train reliability, it wasn’t enough just to measure data feeds from the suspect components. It needed additional feeds to establish the different operating states of the train, such as accelerating, braking, or coasting, as well as its location on the network. Only then could I have a broad enough picture of the real environment of my subject.

… and to do so with such a delightfully crafted narrative.

Time Lauds

GetImageI have been receiving news of Alexis Lebedew’s visit to Nauru. I really like the way Alexis writes and I have found his six part journal, about delivering a coaching course, compelling reading.

In Part 6 he wrote:

I have to admit I found Nauru time in equal parts frustrating and entertaining.  But in the end I just planned around it.  An Australian I met here described it most eloquently.  He said that in Australia, time is always moving away from you.  In Nauru, the locals always think that time is coming towards you.  That is, in Australia you always have to do things before you run out of time, but in Nauru you can always do them later because the time to do them is coming up.

I think this is a great way to characterise distinctions between chronological time and kairological time. I have been thinking about kairological time since reading Jay Griffiths’ A Sideways Look at Time. She observes:

time is not found in dead clocks and inert calendars, time is not money but is life itself: in ocean tides and the blood in the womb, in every self-respecting player, in the land, in every spirited protest for diversity and every refusal to let another enslave your time, in the effervescent gusto of carnival; life revelling in rebellion against the clock.

I have been contemplating how this sense of time might help develop my approach to open and shared learning.

Elsewhere, Jay writes:

Amongst many peoples, ‘Time’ is a matter of timing . It involves spontaneity rather than scheduling, sensitivity to a quality of time. Unclockable. … Timing for many indigenous peoples… is variable and indeterminate and unpredictable. Time is a subtle element where creativity and improvisation, flexibility, fluidity and responsiveness can flourish.

Alexis’ journal and reflecting on Jay’s writing brought me back to a delightful, concluding paragraph in Dennis Bryant’s thesis:

… now it is time to take your leave. In this regard I am reminded of a piece of information that is close to hand (from the Central Australian Warlpiri) … Ngaka nangku nyanyi, which freely translated means If I don’t see you sooner I hope to see you later

Photo Credit

Level 1 Coaching Course in Nauru (FIVB)

Dennis Bryant PhD

IMG_0703Dennis Bryant was awarded his PhD this morning at the University of Canberra’s Graduation Ceremony in the Great Hall of Parliament.

Dennis’s thesis was titled Students and Their Learning Journeys: A Study of Failure in an Australian University.

The abstract for the thesis is:

This thesis explores students’ learning journeys in and through units in Higher Education degree courses. The exploration focuses specifically on student learning failure. It does so by using empirical evidence from one Australian university over a two-year period. The argument presented here is that universities can exploit detailed data at their disposal to enhance students’ achievements on their learning journeys.

An information-rich but modest Toolkit is proposed that provides a detailed description of student learning journeys in general, and of failure in particular. The Toolkit comprises an individual student’s current achievement in a unit (Grade); an individual student’s previous semester achievement (Grade Point Average); three failing Categories, namely, Academically Weak, Not Engaged or Speed Bump and two passing Categories, namely, Passing OK or Flagging, into one of which each individual student is assigned after encountering a unit; and the Group Learning Attainment of all students in that unit (an average of all Grades in a unit).

The final Toolkit element concerns Dimensions of responsibility for learning. The Dimensions are Student, University, Course and Lecturer. This thesis suggests that student academic learning failure is an interrelationship of these four Dimensions. An argument is presented that the three non-Student Dimensions can impact negatively on student learning journeys, and are likely to contribute to failure.

Notwithstanding these issues, the thesis concludes that it is possible to support and enhance student learning achievement journeys.

I was delighted to be able to attend the ceremony and see Dennis receive his PhD. I felt part of his family.



I am hopeful that Dennis and I might be able to extend our work. I do think it has immense significance for personalising learning opportunities in education and sport.