September 29, 2022
In September, SLATE welcomed our new PhD candidates and guest researchers during a two-day interdisciplinary PhD seminar on learning analytics.
On September 1st – September 2nd, SLATE arranged a PhD seminar with a focus on learning analytics. SLATE PhD candidate Christina Gkini was in charge of arranging the seminar, which took place on beautiful Bjorøyna, an island located only a short ferry ride away from Bergen harbour. Over the course of the two seminar days, workshops and presentations were held. The participants got many opportunities to discuss their PhD and master’s projects, exchange ideas and advice, socialize and get to know each other better— and even discuss the very nature of learning analytics, working together to try to find a definition of the term.
The PhD Seminar Participants
The focus of Liu’s PhD project is the question of how to preserve data privacy while gathering and using data related to learning analytics. Previously, she wrote her master’s thesis as part of the COVID Governance and Data Protection project at the University of Edinburgh.
Also attending the PhD seminar was SLATE’s newest SEIS Exchange Visitor, Yagmur Cisem Yilmaz, a PhD candidate in STEAM education from Tallinn University, and SLATE’s newest intern, Geerte Koster, a master’s student in bioinformatics from the University of Amsterdam and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Another participant, long-time SLATE senior researcher Cecilie Hansen, will soon be starting on her own PhD project at the Department of Education at the University of Bergen. The main goal of Hansen’s project is to strengthen our understanding of the teachers’ own understanding of their roles as educators, their idea of what good teaching is, and the relationship between teaching and research in different fields and professions. Hansen’s academic background is in ethnology/culture studies.
SLATE’s new Communication Officer, Ingvild Abildgaard Jansen, also attended the PhD seminar as part of her first day on the job, September 1st. Jansen has a background in media studies and language and culture studies.
A Research Project Firehose Session!
The first day of the seminar kicked off with a “firehose session”, where each participant was given only two minutes to pitch their research projects and introduce themselves.
Since SLATE is an interdisciplinary research centre, the seminar participants had many different backgrounds. Among other things, these included information science, interaction design, ethnology, bioinformatics, music composition and education, psychology, quantitative research and STEAM (the integration of the arts into STEM). The point of this pitching exercise was to make everybody challenge themselves by presenting their projects quickly to audiences outside of their own immediate fields of research.
PhD candidates Cecilie Hansen, Yagmur Cisem Yilmaz and Qinyi Liu also held full presentations of their research projects on the first day of the seminar, while Master’s student Geerte Koster held her full presentation on the second day.
Asking the Difficult Questions about Learning Analytics
On the first day of the PhD seminar, Christina Gkini led a workshop focused on learning analytics. The workshop fostered many interesting discussions and much brainstorming, allowing each participant to share their points of view on central matters, and get the chance to learn from each other.
One of the issues that were raised, was the challenge of how there is lack of a consistent definition of what “learning analytics” even are, with people not agreeing on a clear definition. The closely related challenge then becomes that it is also difficult to figure out what we even want the takeaway from learning analytics to be, when we cannot agree on what learning analytics are in the first place.
Some of the questions that were discussed during the workshop were: “How likely is it that learning analytics will increase or decrease learning in Norway (or the world)?”, “What can increase or decrease the use of learning analytics?”, “What are the technological and ethical boundaries of learning analytics?”, and “Is it a common conception that learning analytics equals big data, and if so, how do we reconcile that with the fact that what happens in a single classroom is not big data?”
The second day of the seminar ended with a final discussion, titled “The technologies of being a PhD student”, where the seminar participants discussed the kind of time management, planning, strategies and tools that are needed for a successful PhD project. PhD candidate André Rabello Mestre led the discussion.