CNDLS Senior Scholar Dr. Phillip Long Shares: The Shifting Conversation around Learning Analytics

Phil Long

Phil Long

Phil Long

We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Phillip Long as a CNDLS Senior Scholar. Previously the Chief Innovation Officer for Project 2021 & the Associate Vice Provost at the University of Texas, Austin, Long’s work in the learning sciences focuses on emerging technologies and our cognitive interactions with them. Over the next month, we invite you to follow along as we share a series of short blog posts highlighting Long and his thoughts on learning analytics.


How has the focus/conversation/community around learning analytics changed since you first engaged in the field of learning science?

Like most new fields, the first area of focus is mapping the contours of the domain. The early days concentrated on figuring out ways to actually collect learner data. What could be captured from existing digital learning tools and platforms? Work emphasized observational and descriptive studies. That’s quite reasonable as most emerging disciplines spend considerable effort building a common language and testing an agreed set of measurement methods before turning to the hard work of hypothesis testing and modeling.

Learning analytics, as a field, is a bit different from the the early days of the natural sciences, for example, because it has emerged in the context of related fields of statistics, data science, machine learning, education, and computer sciences. Time and effort went into understanding to what extent were these upstart professionals who were ‘doing learning analytics’ really doing something fundamentally different. Were they just capitalizing on the attention of the latest ed tech buzzword?

Learning analytics needed to have that introspection and external critique to refine its foundations and better place itself in the scholarly landscape. I think that’s been accomplished. While it needs to maintain the ongoing questioning of its role, it has transitioned to an emphasis on why it was founded in the first place, namely to provide useful insight for learners and teachers into improving the depth, quality, and efficacy of the learning process.

Listen as Long discusses his interest in the construction of the learning experience to best facilitate student-produced artifacts: