Marcelo A. Rauh Schmitt edited this page Jun 29, 2017 · 3 revisions

User Guidelines for Analytics Graphs (written by Evgenii Pavliuk)

Analytics Graphs is a learning analytics plugin (a block) for Moodle 3. It was developed by Marcelo Schmitt et al. at IFRS in Porto Alegre, Brazil. It is presently piloted in the Moodle VLE for Lapland University of Applied Sciences. With the Analytics Graphs plugin, teachers in Lapinkampus Moodle have a useful tool, with which to monitor student activity and student success in their Moodle courses. These guidelines discuss how to activate the tool and how and when to use it.

How to add Analytics Graphs to your course.

If the Analytics Graphs block has not already been added to your course by the eLearning Services, you can add it yourself by turning editing on and selecting the block from the “Add a block” drop down menu (usually in the left-hand block column). You can move the block out of the way and even collapse it, so it does not take up unnecessary space. You do not need to hide the block, for it is not visible to students. Note that even you do not necessarily have to look at the block, because the Analytics Graphs functions can also be accessed via the “Reports” menu in the Administration block of your course! Also note that Analytics Graphs cannot return any data while there are no students in the course, i.e. it only starts working after at least one student has been enrolled in the course.

What does Analytics Graphs do?

The Analytics Graphs plugin is a lower level learning analytics tool. It collects existing student activity data from Moodle and displays it in various charts. In other words, these data have always been available to teachers in Moodle, but not in easily overviewable visual form. Analytics Graphs helps you make sense of data collected from the course logs and the graded activities. The plugin offers teachers a variety of charts, with which to examine student activity in their course. Every chart can be viewed for a specific student group (if students are enrolled in Moodle groups) and can be downloaded or printed. The various pages are in order as listed:

The Grades chart

This page obtains grade results from assignments, quizzes, databases, forums, hotpot quizzes, etc., but only if student submissions in these activities have actually been graded (either automatically by Moodle or manually by a teacher)! Remember that providing grades and feedback on student work in Moodle is an important tool for engaging the student with the study environment and with the study material. If no grades are saved in Moodle, this page cannot return any data. Upon opening the page, the grades chart is empty. All graded tasks in which grades have actually been given, will be listed below the chart, in the order in which they were graded, and they can be selected one by one, or all together, for display in the chart. The chart displays the division of grades given in a selected activity as a so-called box plot, in which a line represents the mean grade for half the students (50 percentile) and a box the dispersion between 25% and 75% of the students while a dotted line gives the outlying lowest and highest grade (in so far as those do not fall within the box). Read more about box plots in Wikipedia. Carefully selecting graded activities in the course will allow a teacher to see the development of student success (as a group) over time. Obviously, this chart becomes topical later in a course when several activities have been graded. If you only have one graded task in your course, this chart loses much of its purpose.

The Content access chart

This page can list every activity and resource on the course page (including those hidden from student view) and indicate how many students have accessed any of those. In course environments with many students and lots of content this means that the page can become very big and may take long to load. Therefore, the tool offers the option to select the types of activities that you want to see displayed, thus reducing the loading time. Once opened the content access chart displays the selected activities in the order in which they appear in the course. For each activity a green bar indicates the number of enrolled students who have accessed the activity at least once. A red bar indicates the number of those who have not accessed the activity. Clicking the bar will list the students by name and allow you to send them all a message. For example, ahead of an important deadline, a teacher can use this page to control which of the students have not looked at a given assignment or quiz and remind them of the upcoming deadline. As another example, a teacher can use the content access page to contact students who have not visited a group choice activity (which can determine their access to group activities in the course). In a course with a linear, chronological set up of activities and resources the content access chart can provide a good impression of how many students are engaging with the material in a timely fashion and how many are lagging behind (and should be addressed).

The Assignment submissions chart

This page can list all assignments in a course in the order in which they appear on the course page. Below the chart the assignments in the course can be selected for display. A bar chart indicates per assignment how many students submitted the assignment before the deadline, how many submitted late and how many did not submit. A line graph overlays the bar charts and can indicate the trend (increasing or decreasing participation). Note that this chart can be muddled somewhat when group assignments are included in the display, since those assignments usually have one student in a group submit the group task, so that a group assignment will appear in the chart as a task with relatively few submissions. You may want to run down the list of groups in the group menu on the chart to check activity on a group by group basis for selected group assignments. Again, clicking the bars will allow a teacher to see which students have submitted on time and perhaps contact those who have not, in order to address their issue with the task. Naturally, the usefulness of this chart depends on how many assignments are in the course and at what points in the learning process they are staged. If you have only one big assignment at the end of the course, this chart will not provide information in a timely fashion for you to use it to influence student participation.

The Quiz submissions chart

This page looks just like the assignment submissions chart except that it lists submitted quizzes in the course.

The Hotpot submissions chart

This page looks just like the assignment submissions chart except that it lists submitted hotpot quizzes in the course.

The Hits distribution chart

This is the most versatile page that the plugin provides. It lists all the students enrolled in the course and lists their activity (by access hits) per week since the start of the course as set in the course settings (i.e. if you are re-using an existing course, make sure the start date matches the start date in SoleOPS)! If the start date is too far in the past (say a year or more) the chart will become hard to read. Clearly, this chart is an excellent tool to monitor student activity. It makes it easy to spot students who have not looked at any course material for the past week or two and to immediately send a tutoring message (Click the student’s name) to ask what has kept them from engaging with the course (Obviously, there needs to be content in the course for them to engage with. If your course only contains a few PDF files, the students can download those the first week and need not access the course anymore thereafter). Students who have not been active in the course at all are listed at the bottom of the page and those too can be sent an email message via a button. Note that by default this page will send a copy of each message to all teachers in the course, so if the message is for your eyes only, deselect that option! Clicking the student name does not only bring up the messaging tool. The pop-up window also contains tabs that display an overview of messages sent to the student before (also by other teachers!) and information about the student’s access of course content and timeliness of assignment and quiz submissions. Clicking these pie charts will list the applicable data (content accessed or not accessed; assignments submitted on time, late or not at all) and all sub charts too can be printed or exported.

How and When to use Analytics Graphs

International research has confirmed what the experience of the eLearning services of Lapland UAS has suggested: The engagement of students with the virtual learning environment in the first weeks of study in a course is indicative of the students’ eventual success. This goes for both on-line and classroom-taught courses, although the correlation in the latter is weaker, because there is also the students’ engagement with the physical learning environment to consider.

One of the early signals about a student’s motivation and engagement is whether or not he or she has edited their profile in Moodle and added a description and a user picture. It is important that students want to be seen as human beings even in the virtual environment and teachers should give a good example by having themselves a recognizable user picture of themselves in their profile and a description that mentions something about them, like their qualifications in the subjects that they teach. Experience has shown that students who have no user picture in their profile are at a greater risk of dropping out than their classmates who do have a user picture. Hence, all students should be strongly encouraged to build and guard their identity in the learning environment just as they would do in social media.

Keeping in mind that the first weeks of study are crucial to set students’ involvement level in their studies, the teachers in a course (in a joint course evidently the tutor teacher has the greatest responsibility in this respect) should employ the Content access chart and the Hits distribution chart in the beginning of the course to identify students who lack in their engagement with the material in the Moodle course and target them for tutoring. In this way the tool will help you avoid the situation in which students disappear unseen in the background until they inevitably drop out. If you use the Analytics Graphs plugin in this way, students cannot feel invisible on-line and the result ought to be a greater study motivation and increased retention of students. These interventions are meant to occur before the deadlines of submission tasks.

A good Moodle course is not made up of a bunch of links and files and a final assignment. Such a course is easy and quick to put together, but it is not the best set up to really draw students in and keep them coming back. A good course will have activities scheduled at somewhat regular intervals that will necessitate for students to return to the course regularly and use the course materials. A good example would be a joint assignment with multiple submission instances over the duration of the course. Course completion (can be enabled in the course settings and then applied to activities and resources) could be employed in this set up to make their progress through the course content visual to the students (via boxes on the course page, as well as via the Course completion status block that can be added to the course). Needless to say, this whole set up should be ready at the start of the course and not applied while the course is underway, since that would only confuse students.

The advantage of having so-called “way-points” (milestones is rather a big word) in the shape of small, preferably auto-graded, tasks that test student engagement with the subject matter, is that teachers can spot lacking engagement from students early on and the Analytics Graphs plugin can be of assistance in this. The Quiz and Hotpot quiz submissions pages, for instance, can display whether or not there is a downward trend in the motivation of the student group, while the grades chart can signal a downward trend in the success rate. Such a trend can be due to the tasks being too hard or too easy for students with decreasing motivation as a result. It is up to the teacher(s) to identify students for whom this pattern is apparent and take preventive action, approaching the students individually and trying to motivate them. Such progress assessment instances can be scheduled at selected points during the implementation of a course, after at least one of the way points has been passed. In other words, these interventions are meant to occur after the deadlines of submission tasks.

The Analytics Graphs plugin is not a miracle tool that will point out students at risk for you. It is a purely descriptive tool that can visualise what is going on in the course and this may help you notice matters that otherwise might have been overlooked. It is not necessary to check the charts continuously. Efficient use of the tool would see it consulted especially in the first weeks after the start of the course and after intermediate submission tasks in the learning process. Checking the charts at the end of the course is not so helpful since the time to intervene has largely passed. It should also be observed that the Analytics Graphs plugin can be more efficient in courses of longer duration with multiple intermediate submission activities scheduled, for this allows the tool to gather more data and thus allows the teacher to get a better impression of student activity levels. This implies that, for the purpose of using learning analytics, semester environments combining several interrelated study modules in one Moodle course are most suited, because it is easier to create intermediate tasks and joint assignments and there will be more teachers over whom the responsibility for monitoring Analytics Graphs can be divided.

If used in an efficient way, the Analytics Graphs plugin can be helpful in increasing student study engagement and consequently in reducing dropout rates. It should be remembered, however, that Analytics Graphs is but one, lower level, learning analytics tool and that the eLearning services are investigating already additional, more advanced tools that would provide teachers with even more detailed and specific information about student activity in their courses.

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