CI 5371: Learning Analytics: Theory and Practice

DRAFT - Aug 30, 2018

Fall 2018  -  Online  -  3 Credits

Instructor Information

Bodong Chen, Assistant Professor

Course Description


Learning analytics as a nascent field is broadly defined as the “measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs.”[1] This course aims to provide a general survey of learning analytics emphasizing its application in various educational contexts, rather than its underlying algorithmic details. In particular, we will discuss foundations of learning analytics, survey pertinent education theories, discuss emerging forms of assessment, explore popular data analytic techniques, review learning analytical tools and case studies, and design analytics for our own contexts. Given the breadth of this field, personalized support is provided for deeper dives in special interest areas. Overall, this course provides a comprehensive, theory-driven overview of learning analytics to orient students to this nascent field and prepare them for advanced research/practice in learning analytics.


The course is designed for a broad audience. All graduate students interested in learning analytics and its application in specific educational areas (e.g., STEM learning, literacies, online learning, workplace learning, learning in informal settings) are welcomed.

Prerequisites: None. Prior knowledge in learning theories, assessment, and data science is helpful but not required.


By the end of the course, students will:

  1. Understand the learning analytics data cycle
  2. Identify and describe key epistemological, pedagogical, ethical, and technical factors informing the design and implementation of learning analytics
  3. Be familiar with the basics of collecting, cleaning, transforming, managing, and analyzing educational data
  4. Be familiar with some of the popular data analytic techniques, including predictive models, text analysis, relationship mining, and social networks
  5. Develop awareness and skills necessary for applying learning analytics

Course Design

Guiding Philosophy

This is a Knowledge Building course, meaning all participants (including the instructor) are collectively producing ideas and knowledge of value to the community, in order to solve authentic learning analytics problems. Our top-level goal in this course will be to work as a knowledge building team, living and exploring the capacity of learning analytics in supporting learning in various domains. This overarching goal will be interwoven throughout this course. We will advance this goal through social annotation of readings, design activities, and group projects.

The course design also follows facets of Open Pedagogy. Instructional content (produced by the instructor) will be made open on the web as Open Educational Resources (OERs). All members of the community are encouraged to create and openly share artifacts -- e.g., web annotations, blog posts, tweets, essays, computer codes -- at any stage of the course.

Course Timeline

This is an online class. The course website will be the hub, and most course readings will be listed on the site.

Each week:

  • The class will meet synchronously online on Mondays, 5-6:30pm, via Zoom. These synched meetings will be spent on the elaboration of key concepts, collaborative activities, software demos, Q&A, student presentations, etc. The Zoom room will be open 15 minutes before class for community members to settle in and socialize.
  • The class will interact asynchronously during the rest workdays, via Slack <> and They’re where social reading, discussion, and knowledge building take place.

For the semester:

  1. The first seven weeks are designed to provide an introduction to the field of learning analytics, including its foundations, research themes, data analytic techniques, and case studies. These weeks feature both theoretical discussions highlighting typical assumptions underlying learning analytics applications, and hands-on with data analytic techniques. During the process, students will form working groups (WGs; with max. 3 members) around emergent design problems in specific contexts. Students will also self-organize into several special interest groups (SIGs), each of which will lead the community in exploring a theme of learning analytics in the 2nd part the course.
  2. The second part of the course features five(ish) themes, each led by a corresponding SIG. With support from the instructor, each SIG is expected to take a lead on designing classroom activities, presenting key ideas, and facilitating discussion. Each SIG will meet with the instructor one week in advance to finalize their course plan. In the meantime, each WG will keep advancing their group projects.
  3. The class will use the final two weeks to further advance our WG projects and rise-above ideas in the community. Each WG will present their work to the class. We will collectively reflect on our designs and explore possible ways to further improve them.

Supporting Tools

Digital tools and practices are important for this online course. Supporting tools include but are not limited to the following:

  • Zoom: A video-conferencing tool for our synchronous online meetings
  • A web annotation tool for discussing course readings
  • Slack: A team communication tool for announcements and asynchronous discussions within the community
  • Social media: Use #LAUMN and #LearningAnalytics when posting on social media (e.g., Twitter). If you blog, send the instructor your RSS feed.

You will need a functional web camera and a microphone to participate in Zoom meetings. Please consult with the Office of Information Technology (OIT) in advance if you need additional support.  If you’re new to virtual meetings, familiarize yourself with basic virtual meeting etiquettes.

Workload Expectation

This is a 3-credit course, with an expected weekly workload of 9 hours.

Assessment and Grades

Attendance & Deadlines

Attendance requirements and penalties for missing class: Attendance are required. Missed classes will lead to lower grades (see section Grading).

All graded work in class must be completed by the due dates listed below in the Course Schedule section of this syllabus.

If you find a specific deadline not working for you or you need more time for an assignment, you can establish a new deadline if you contact the instructor in advance prior to the deadline, provided that the new deadline would not disrupt your peers' work. However, if the instructor receives no prior communication from you and you submit an assignment late, the assignment will be penalized at the rate of 10% per day.


  • Group- and Individual-Assessment: Students will be assessed both individually and as a group
  • Teacher- and Peer-Assessment: Students will be assessed both by the instructor and peers, based on their individual learning and contributions to the community




Class participation (online and F2F)


SIG presentation (group & peer)


WG project artifact (group)


WG presentation (group)


Reflection essay or e-portfolio


* No extra credit is allowed in the course.

Class participation involves active and constructive participation in sync and async discussions. Evaluation will be based on both numeric metrics reflecting participation efforts and qualitative assessment of one's discussion contribution.

SIG presentation. Each SIG will design a session to engage the whole class in exploring a theme in learning analytics. When one group presents/leads, other groups will participate and assess the session following a given rubric. Students in a same group will get a same score as other peers. Each SIG member will also be assessed by group members.

Each WG will tackle a real-world problem of their choice, and will be expected to produce a project artifact and present it to the whole class.

  • A WG project artifact could be a design document, a research plan, or a functioning prototype depending on the problem chosen by the WG. (Each WG should come up with a tentative project proposal to discuss with the instructor by the end of Week 11.)
  • WG presentations will be peer-assessed following a given rubric. Students in a same group get a same score. Each member of a WG are also assessed by other group members.

Reflection essay or e-portfolio. Students would have the choice between a reflective essay (not exceeding 2,000 words excluding references) or preparing an e-portfolio reflecting on one's journey in the course.


Class Schedule with Weekly Readings and Activities









  • Self-intro on Slack
  • Annotate on Hypothesis



Learning Analytics: A Brief Overview

Explore WG group ideas



Ethics, Algorithmic Accountability, and System Integrity

SIG topics



Theory and Learning Analytics

WG project ideas share-out



Hidden Assumptions: Epistemology, Pedagogy, and Assessment

SIG and WG signup



Educational Data Mining: An Overview



Cases and Examples of Learning Analytics



"Fun with Data" Hands-on



Social Networks (theme 1)

To be designed by SIG 1



Predictive Models (theme 2)

  • Buniyamin, Arsad, & Kassim, 2013
  • Pardos et al., 2013
  • Thai-Nghe et al., 2011
  • Elbadrawy et al., 2016

To be designed by SIG 2



Text and Discourse Analytics (theme 3)

To be designed by SIG 3



AI and Text Mining (theme 4)

  • TBD

To be designed by SIG 4



Visual Learning Analytics (theme 5)

  • TBD

To be designed by SIG 5



WG Presentations and Reflection


WGs present their group projects



Assignments due


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