Volume 20, Issue 2 - June 2016


Karen Vignare, PhD, KV Consulting

Patsy Moskal, PhD, University of Central Florida

We are pleased to present this Online Learning Journal special issue devoted to learning analytics for online teaching and learning. The nine papers contained here provide a range of information including reviewing the literature, examining frameworks in development, presenting a large scale analysis on the effectiveness of learning modalities from the PAR Framework, examining an international study of learning, and providing real-world learning analytics case studies on transfer, facilitation, and medical education. Each of these papers provides new and informative research that we hope can help readers make decisions about applying analytics within the context of their own online teaching and learning environments.

While research studies on analytics are beginning to populate journals and conferences, many of those articles are aimed at a more limited audience of researchers. This collection of articles presents readers with information about designing environments within online learning while also highlighting studies that expand upon what exists in currently published research. The authors here represent a significant contribution to practical decision making for administrators, insights for faculty teaching online courses, and works for other researchers to build upon.

Learning Analytics Methods, Benefits, and Challenges in Higher Education: A Systematic Literature Review

John T. Avella, Mansureh Kebritchi, Sandra G. Nunn, Therese Kanai, University of Phoenix

Higher education for the 21st century continues to promote discoveries in the field through learning analytics (LA).  The problem is that the rapid embrace of of LA diverts educators’ attention from clearly identifying requirements and implications of using LA in higher education.  LA is a promising emerging field, yet higher...

Let’s Talk Learning Analytics: A Framework for Implementation in Relation to Student Retention

Deborah West & David Heath, Charles Darwin University

Henk Huijser, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University & Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education



This paper presents a dialogical tool for the advancement of learning analytics implementation for student retention in Higher Education institutions. The framework was developed as an outcome of a project commissioned and funded by the Australian Government’s Office for Learning and Teaching. The project took a mixed-method approach including a...

Assessing the Reliability of Merging Chickering & Gamson’s Seven Principles for Good Practice with Merrill’s Different Levels of Instructional Strategy (DLISt7)

Dr. Syaril Izwann Jabar, University Selangor, Malaysia

Prof. Peter R. Albion, University of Southern Queensland, Australia

Based on Chickering and Gamson’s (1987) Seven Principles for Good Practice, this research project attempted to revitalize the principles by merging them with Merrill’s (2006) Different Levels of Instructional Strategy. The aim was to develop, validate, and standardize a measurement instrument (DLISt7) using a pretest-posttest Internet quasi-experiment. It was proposed...

Retention, Progression and the Taking of Online Courses

Scott James,  Predictive Analytics Reporting Framework

Karen Swan, University of Illinois Springfield

Cassandra Daston, Predictive Analytics Reporting Framework

Online learning continues to grow at post-secondary institutions across the United States, but many question its efficacy, especially for students most at-risk for failure. This paper engages that issue. It examines recent research on the success of community college students who take online classes and explores similar comparisons using 656,258...

Assessment of Learning in Digital Interactive Social Networks: A Learning Analytics Approach

Mark Wilson, University of California, Berkeley                                                                

Kathleen Scalise, University of Oregon

Perman Gochyyev, University of California, Berkeley

This paper summarizes initial field-test results from data analytics used in the work of the Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (ATC21S) project, on the “ICT Literacy — Learning in digital networks” learning progression.  This project, sponsored by Cisco, Intel and Microsoft, aims to help educators around the world...

Using Community College Prior Academic Performance to Predict Re-Enrollment at a Four-Year Online University

Denise Nadasen, University of Maryland University College

Alexandra List, Ball State University

Students’ re-enrollment in the subsequent semester after their first semester at a four-year institution is a strong predictor of retention and graduation.  This is especially true for students who transfer from a community college to a four-year institution because of the many external or non-academic factors influencing a student’s decision...

Exploring the Relationships Between Facilitation Methods, Students’ Sense of Community, and Their Online Behaviors

Krystle Phirangee, Carrie Demmans Epp, and Jim Hewitt, University of Toronto

The popularity of online learning has boomed over the last few years, pushing instructors to consider the best ways to design their courses to support student learning needs and participation. Prior research suggests the need for instructor facilitation to provide this guidance and support, whereas other studies have suggested peer...

Developing Learning Analytics Design Knowledge in the “Middle Space”: The Student Tuning Model and Align Design Framework for Learning Analytics Use

Alyssa Friend Wise, Jovita Maria Vytasek, Simone Hausknecht and Yuting Zhao, Simon Fraser University

This paper addresses a relatively unexplored area in the field of learning analytics: how analytics are taken up and used as part of teaching and learning processes. Initial steps are taken towards developing design knowledge for this “middle space,” with a focus on students as analytics users. First, a core...

Using Learning Analytics to Identify Medical Student Misconceptions in an Online Virtual Patient Environment

Eric G. Poitras, University of Utah

Laura M. Naismith, University Health Network

Tenzin Doleck, Susanne P. Lajoie, McGill University

This study aimed to identify misconceptions in medical student knowledge by mining user interactions in the MedU online learning environment. Data from 13000 attempts at a single virtual patient case were extracted from the MedU MySQL database. A subgroup discovery method was applied to identify patterns in learner-generated annotations and...

Introduction to Section Two, MOOCs, Psychological Constructs, Communication Behaviors

Peter Shea, University at Albany, SUNY

This issue of Online Learning also contains four articles outside the theme of learning analytics. This section contains papers investigating MOOCs, a comparison of anxiety levels and the “imposter phenomenon” between online and classroom students, and a qualitative analysis of information behaviors among online students....

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Participant Activity, Demographics, and Satisfaction

Sara Shrader,  Maryalice Wu, Dawn Owens, Kathleen Santa Ana,  University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign

This paper examines activity patterns, participant demographics, and levels of satisfaction in multiple MOOC offerings at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from August 2012–December 2013.  Using the following guiding questions: “Who are MOOC participants, how do they participate, and were they able to get what they wanted out of...

Global Times Call for Global Measures: Investigating Automated Essay Scoring in Linguistically-Diverse MOOCs

Erin D. Reilly, Kyle M. Williams, Rose E. Stafford, Stephanie B. Corliss, Janet C. Walkow, Donna K. Kidwell, University of Texas at Austin

This paper utilizes a case-study design to discuss global aspects of massive open online course (MOOC) assessment. Drawing from the literature on open-course models and linguistic gatekeeping in education, we position freeform assessment in MOOCs as both challenging and valuable, with an emphasis on current practices and student resources. We...

The Role of Social Influence in Anxiety and the Imposter Phenomenon

Christy B. Fraenza, Walden University

High anxiety levels have been associated with high levels of the imposter phenomenon (IP), a negative experience of feeling like a fraud. This study was designed to explore IP among graduate students and to determine whether a difference exists between online graduate students and traditional graduate students. The theoretical foundation...

Information Sharing, Community Development, and Deindividuation in the eLearning Domain

Nicole A. Cooke, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign   

In a study of the information behaviors of graduate students enrolled in an online Masters of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program, it was determined that learners engage in threaded discussions not only for cognitive purposes but for affective reasons as well.  The information sharing among students was particularly prolific...