Edits made on September 12th, 2018.
“It’s all analytics, all the time, in Elizabeth’s head.” — E. D.
Here is a 3-part summary of the session. A recording is available here.
Call for Research & Development partners
Moodle HQ informed Elizabeth that active and future research partnership programs would not lead to new core developments, at least for this year. The main reason iis the reported development priorities involving GDPR. But even if any news involving research would wait till next year, or after Moodle 3.6, Dalton assures that a few doors remain open to anyone willing to lead the way. Model onboarding, peer review and co-authoring to name a few. Any party interested in researching projects involving Moodle analytics can reach out to Dalton herself.
Likewise, there are no announcements about research funding opportunities. Dalton mentions the Moodle Foundation, announced to be based in Brussels over a year ago, envisioned as a global hub of Moodle based research and intervention. But Moodle HQ has not made any further announcement since October. She confirms that so far “the infrastructure is not in place.”
Setting up the “Community of Inquiry” model
Dalton shows a preview of the content she’s been working on, mainly a series of slides titled “Moodle Learning Analytics: Enabling and Administering the Community of Inquiry Model.” It is a theoretical overview of the model’s current targets and indicators. Two versions of the presentation, for developers and educational researchers, are available. The predictive analytics engine feeds on information available in Moodle, which itself depends on the institution’s pedagogical approach. A 2-dimensional plot serves to put them in context: Social breadth and cognitive depth. The slides, along with her voiceover, are the basis of the two online workshops, estimated to amount to 8-hour sessions that culminate with a final product. The completion of it awards the participant a “Moodle Learning Analytics” badge.
Proposal for an integrated “Report Builder”
Dalton shares news on the work behind a visual interface for predictive analytics. Reports are the first level of analytics and do not involve machine learning. But they can kickstart questions and debate.
Luca Börsch mentions discussions held with the Moodle Users Association, of which he is a member, about the possibility of the assembly to lead the way. MUA might help moving the report builder forward, but the understanding is that only after the community votes a member-submitted project could its funding go to the Builder.
From US Moodle Partner eThink Education, Jeremy Schweizer voices the skepticism about it being a MUA project and not a core priority, given among other things the “internal interconnectedness” of the tool. Dalton points out that MUA’s projects are “contracted work” and that Moodle HQ “gets the work done” just like any other, with the difference that MUA projects come with secured funding. There should be nothing wrong with leveraging MUA’s support to improve core functionality, as long as the project specifications are fulfilled.
The consensus seems to be that a report builder should be a priority by itself at Moodle HQ and that MUA’s support should not be necessary. Reality, however seems to play in the opposite direction. A recent announcement from Open Source Development shows GDPR, accessibility and miscellaneous items like group messaging and LTI the current focus at HQ. No report builder was announced for Moodle 3.6. Meanwhile, a project running in the current cycle, “MUA customizable report builder proposal,” could provide some of the desired functionality, if not all. It is not an analytics-based project, nor it involves a predictions engine, but it could be the ground floor. It is also worth pointing out that, since MUA projects are developed in-house by HQ, there is no reason why they could not tackle parts of Moodle’s inner code.
In conclusion, despite the perceived importance and deserved priority of a Report Builder, only if a similar project is approved by Moodle’s independent user-based organism we could hope to see any progress in this regard.
“The system is not quite where I want it to be yet. But it will be.” — E. D.