by Shahida Sweeney

Victoria University taps analytics to provide blended learning

Aug 27, 20143 mins
Big DataEducation IndustryGovernment

Victoria University (VU) has gone live with an integrated learning platform that uses data analytics and mobile apps to help design, deliver and manage anywhere, anytime learning programs for more than 40,000 students.

This blended learning strategy replaces an antiquated learning management system, said VU’s associate director of blended learning, Dr Lisa Germany.

She said the old system was limited in the learning opportunities it offered students and teaching staff. A blended learning initiative incorporates more user-friendly interfaces, as well as comprehensive course design capabilities.

The university’s blended learning project has been awarded to D2L (Desire2Learn) – a learning technology company that created the Brightspace integrated learning platform.

The university is using D2L’s data analytics tools for more detailed reporting, assessment and collaboration to revitalise its e-learning environment.

“A big component of our blended learning strategy is to be able to support our students effectively,” Dr Germany said.

VU’s CIO Professor Peter Creamer, said the concept of blended learning offers a completely different experience. “Learning can be sourced from different places, quite unlike the traditional model.”

This new model taps into different sources, channels, and groups. “The traditional model was to bring all learning into one place. But students are now widely dispersed and use different learning channels. Blended learning combines different resources, including the web.”

The university has spent $20 million on ICT so far this year, some of which was spent on the deployment of cloud infrastructure-as-a-service. This service is sourced through a hosted cloud centre in Sydney.

“This service taps into a feed that is passed around the university,” said Professor Creamer.

Analytics a drawcard

Learning analytics is a big draw card for education. “We are entering the era of big data and if you don’t have a system that offers opportunities to drill down and learn about your students, then you’re doing them a disservice,” said Dr Germany.

A reliable robust architecture remains critical to managing dynamic learning environments and preserves the integrity of data, while offering anywhere, anytime access to students and staff, she said.

VU’s blended learning package incorporates a content repository, as well as analytics and mobile apps.

Mobile apps will enable students to capture and share learning milestones, whether on campus or at work. They can update their personal achievements using mobile devices or social media.

“Desire2Learn’s ePortfolio mobile app will help our students capture evidence of their learning, as many of them spend quite a lot of time out in the workplace as part of their studies,” said Dr Germany.

“Students will be able to showcase achievements and milestones related to their work experience from their mobile D2L ePortfolio app,” she said.

Online learning

Among other initiatives, the VU will finalise an online enrolment program by year’s end. This initiative enables students to enrol at their convenience and track the status of enrolments in real time.

Applicants can also attach documents together with online applications. This project replaces a resource-intensive and cumbersome paper process.

VU is one of only a few Australian universities to offer both vocational training (TAFE) and higher education, with direct pathways between the two.

The university’s learning programs are supported by campuses in Melbourne’s west and the CBD, as well as a campus in Sydney and several offshore partner sites in Asia.

Under a banner of transnational education, the VU is engaging more closely with Asia, through partnerships with prestigious institutions, as well as online and campus programs.