Time for Change: Why Learning Analytics Needs Temporal Analysis

Simon Knight
Alyssa Friend Wise
Bodong Chen


Learning is a process that occurs over time: We build understanding, change perspectives, and develop skills over the course of extended experiences. As a field, learning analytics aims to generate understanding of, and support for, such processes of learning. Indeed, a core characteristic of learning analytics is the generation of high-resolution temporal data about various types of actions. Thus, we might expect study of the temporal nature of learning to be central in learning analytics research and applications. However, temporality has typically been underexplored in both basic and applied learning research. As Reimann (2009) notes, although “researchers have privileged access to process data, the theoretical constructs and methods employed in research practice frequently neglect to make full use of information relating to time and order” (p. 239). Typical approaches to analysis often aggregate across data due to a collection of conceptual, methodological, and operational challenges. As described below, insightful temporal analysis requires (1) conceptualising the temporal nature of learning constructs, (2) translating these theoretical propositions into specific methodological approaches for the capture and analysis of temporal data, and (3) practical methods for capturing temporal data features and using analyses to impact learning contexts. There is a pressing need to address these challenges if we are to realize the exciting possibilities for temporal learning analytics.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18608/jla.2017.43.2


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