LAK12: Wednesday morning (1)

Liveblog notes from LAK13 Learning Analytics Conference in Leuven, Belgium.

Welcome and Opening

Erik Duval, General chair for LAK13 and local host, welcomes everyone.

The Vice-Rector of Science, Engineering and Technology at KU Leuven, Karen Maex, welcomes people and tells people a bit about KU Leuven. Been around since 1425, have a wide and deep historical and cultural heritage. Interdisciplinarity of LAK is good. Changes in communications patterns in society. Open, social models of learning. The first core business of a university is educating students to take part in a society that has changed so much.

Dan Suthers, Program chair for LAK13, welcomes everyone. He and Katrien thank authors and reviewers. Thanks the other chairs too. Theme of conference – Learning Analytics as a ‘middle space’. Very diverse ideas, now we’re moving to identify a core – though not too tightly. So keen on learning, and analytics. Conception of learning can be broad: no correct conception. Individuals as agents of learning, or something small groups do, or process of becoming a member of a community (LPP) where the community is the entity that’s changing. Different epistemologies of learning – moving information around, or it’s intersubjective meaning-making, or the process of becoming part of a community. We want to stay open to these questions. But we need to be explicit and clear about our own conception of what learning is. Interesting diversity and contributions – can be new technologies, or exploring their utility for informing our understanding of learning or the educational enterprise. The ‘middle space’, and ‘productive multivocality’. We do have many voices – different theoretical, methodological traditions; researchers, teachers, administrators, policy-makers, funders. Challenge for discourse. Risk of two extremes – it breaks up in to different discourses, or an ill-considered mish-mash of traditions. We need to find appropriate boundary objects, things that are meaningful in multiple traditions, the shared referent enables productive discourse. Asking everyone to seek this in the conference.

Nice chart of submission types over time – from 30ish in 2011, 60ish in 2012, >100 in 2013. Slides from Xavier. Acceptance rate going down: 63%, 39%, 28% this year. New and returning authors – most are new but some returning.

Katrien Verbert talks a bit about Conference Navigator. Has links to the full papers. Can add talks to your schedule, see who else is attending. They’ll use the data to develop visualisations. Introduces first keynote speaker: Marsha Lovett, from Carnegie Mellon University.

Keynote: Marsha Lovett – Cognitively Informed Analytics to Improve Teaching and Learning

Gothic townhall of Leuven, Belgium
(cc) Eddy Van 3000 on Flickr. The conference reception is actually in this building.

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University of Autocomplete

With tuition fees so high, it’s never been more important to give prospective students good information about university. This report is the result of a highly sophisticated social media sentiment mining and semantic content analysis, providing summary overviews. Or, in other words, I put “X is” and “X are” in to Google and picked the things that seemed most helpful from the autocomplete list that popped up. (Previous related work explored the geography of the UK, and human nature. It’s also been used as a source of found poetry.)


Here, for the first time, is Autocomplete University: a comprehensive exploration of the collective Internet view of the university is all its component parts. Universities did reasonably well when this methodology was applied to US States. Sadly, things don’t look quite so rosy for universities themselves. The study found: “The academy is almost here. Academics are jerks.”. There’s a mixed picture for students: “undergraduates are miserable”, but on the other hand “graduates are prepared for the world of work”. Some highlights:

  • Classics is a good degree. Classicists are smart.
  • Biology is destiny. Biologists create zombie cells. Genetics is not an excuse.
  • Psychology is bullshit. Psychologists are least likely to suggest that.
  • Linguistics is hard. Linguists are hot.
  • Dentistry is a bad career. Dentists are sadists.
  • Librarians are hiding something: Library is no longer working.
  • VCs are liars. VCs are not your friends.
  • Research is the door to tomorrow. Door is stuck.
  • Web pages are not responding. Forums are full of idiots. Instant messaging is available only from AOL.

Without further ado, here is the complete report.

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