Practical information about e-learning: statistics and reports

19-Sep-2012

In the third part of this series I am going to talk about statistics. Although a lot of us are taken aback by large quantities of numbers, being able to use statistics is a powerful tool when predicting problems, providing feedback and finding better solutions by analyzing data. I am one of those who look somewhat confused when it comes to numbers but I discovered that, after the toil of analyzing, it feels like digging for gold and finding a valuable nugget when you get the information and data you are looking for.

VLE-s (Virtual learning Environment) provide an easy way to generate statistics about attendance, number of exercises solved, their results, login times and time spent on learning. It can be said that all VLE-s are generally collecting these data but Macmillan English Campus makes it available in a very user-friendly way. What you end up with is usually a spreadsheet and from there you only require some basic computer skills to organize the mass of information. Thinking about it, the tool of statistics has always been there but VLE-s made it more user-friendly and available.

Feedback should be regular, provided in the same format every time and sent in the form of a circular letter. These can be created in a few minutes from a spreadsheet and sent to many; maintaining that personal feel. In my experience a lot of learners who get such feedback actually write back apologizing for not having spent enough time  learning and promise they will make it up as soon as possible. Reports should be sent monthly or bi-weekly.

Reports should include the amount of time learners have spent on the VLE, the number of exercises they have accomplished, the results and a word or two whether their performance is satisfactory or not. Learners who seem to have more trouble with the surface (e.g. having spent very little or no time on it) can receive a separate, personal letter asking about problems they might have. It often happens that some learners who lag behind are simply overlooked and forgotten about. However with a little analysis it becomes quite easy to see who these learners are and follow up on them. This is true for distance learning most of the time, as there is no teacher to provide regular feedback.  Sometimes, though it is true for blended learning classes too, as the teacher is also human and might just forget about checking every learner’s performance.

Feedback on learner performance is equally, if not more valuable for company clients. The essence of reports sent to the companies is the same as for individual reports – time spent, amount of exercises done, log in dates and all this on a regular basis: typically every month on a spreadsheet. It is important for both learners and the company to have a clear understanding about the requirements. Feedback should be provided to the company (typically to HR) by the agreed administrator. Learning has always been fairly difficult to measure quantitatively. Nevertheless company managements, especially those greater in size, love numbers. Reports from VLE-s provide a tangible result (e.g. number of hours spent studying) and this creates a feeling of security in managers who have solid proof of actual studying having been done; rather than relying on the end-of-term test results.

Statistics are also valuable tools for head teachers when predicting problems in a blended learning class. As I have mentioned before, there is a straight and obvious correlation between teacher activity and learner activity. Logs show clearly how much time a teacher has spent on the VLE surface and how often they have logged in. By examining this data, teachers ensure problems do not hit out of the blue. If an anomaly is experienced somewhere extra training and extra care can be provided before learner dissatisfaction emerges.

Perhaps the most controversial part of statistics is that sometimes it makes it painfully visible how little time learners spend studying. But as I have mentioned in my previous article, confronting learners with their performance can have an eye-opening effect and enhance future performance. Thus I believe it is a good choice to send them feedback on how much they have accomplished and tell them the naked truth if it is not enough.

Béla

 

 

 

 

 

Additional articles in the ‘Practical information…’ series can be found here:

Introduction

Recruitment and training

Course building

Future plans and ideas

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