The Open Data Analytics Initiative: Evaluating Online Delivery Systems

The potential of virtual schools and other electronic-enabled channels for instruction is well-recognized in education reform circles today. Pioneer identified this potential in 2008, when it awarded the Florida Virtual School as the most innovative idea of that year’s Better Government Competition. With several proven models of success—the Florida Virtual School being one of the strongest examples—this teaching paradigm has already had a significant impact on improving student learning and performance.

Of course, online education is in many ways unchartered territory—a concern that is at the core of the Open Data Analytics Initiative of the UMassBostonCenter for Innovation and Excellence in eLearning (CIEE).

The researchers at CIEE recognize the value of online delivery systems and are committed to evaluating the impact and effectiveness of different designs of online coursework through quantitative research and data-driven analysis. By analyzing the enormous amount of data collected through Learning Management Systems (LMS), ODAI aims to reduce the costs of propriety analytic systems (e.g. Blackboard, WebCT) and provide educators valuable information on critical issues with the curriculum design of online coursework.

In partnership with data mining firm, College Miner Inc., the ODAI project uses a cross-LMS analytic engine to survey comparative data on learning across different platforms. With this unique tool, the ODAI team can extract valuable information like student activity in courses, amount of time spent on each course and separate elements of each course, and identify correlations between course grades and different metrics of student activity. The end result is a clearer and more informed picture of the limitations of online delivery systems and what can be done to improve them.

Online education holds enormous promise for future generations of students. In addressing the limitations of alternate modes of delivery, online delivery systems have the potential to make quality instruction accessible to more individuals than ever before. In evaluating these systems, the ODAI project drives discovery on how to improve online curriculum design and identifies information instrumental in making these tools more affordable for educators.

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