Experience API (xAPI): Potential for Open Educational Resources – Part 2
Assessment for Learning
Education is about deciding what students need to learn (the objective), about learning and teaching (content and activity), and about assessment (monitoring student progress and competency). Of the three, assessment has usually been the lagging factor in the past.
CTO of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium Brandt Redd (2012) made an analogy of a learning system as a control system — “closed loop” is better than “open loop” and “negative feedback” is good while “positive feedback” is bad. Because students come to us with different personalities, talents, preferences, and backgrounds, without “negative feedback” the result will be out of control. A personalized learning system should look like a closed-loop control system. (Fig.2) For feedback to be really effective, it must be frequent, fast, and rich.
Frequent, fast, and rich feedback depends on frequent, fast, and rich assessments. Now with the promise of recent digital learning technologies, it is finally possible.
XAPI can be embedded in almost any digital learning system and workflow to probe a learner’s behaviors in a non-intrusive way. It can reliably assess a wide range of outcomes and the learner’s multifaceted attributes (habits, preferences, collaboration, dispositions etc.). There is no need to distinguish between learning activities and moments of assessment. Instead, a model of the learner’s knowledge state is continually assessed and updated.
The information and analytics become real-time, authentic, and ongoing feedback to the learner and his instructor, and can be used to personalize learning paths automatically in an intelligent tutoring system. The aim of such a system is to facilitate self-paced learning without help from teachers — like a gamer progressing by trial and error as long as he is in the zone of proximal development (ZPD). Assessment for learning is for guiding the best next step to support students and teachers rather than measuring past achievement. It is crucial to measure what is important, not just what is easy to measure.
The “Actor” (learner) isn’t just a puppet in a given story. They are characters in their own stories and in their peers’ stories. Well-designed xAPI data can form meaningful feedback and aid for the learners themselves. An ipsative assessment (Hughes, Okumoto, & Wood, 2011) in an education/learning context compares a test-taker’s results against his or her previous results. XAPI is helpful for both weak learners (so that they are not discouraged by comparison) and strong learners (to preventing complacency). With xAPI tracking, feedback comes not only from test results, but also behaviors related to study skills. This makes data loops work even before advanced analytics come into play.
Distributed Nature of OER
Open Educational Resources (OER) have already made a profound impact on education world-wide. The OER world map (https://oerworldmap.org/) displays OER around the world. Open licenses permit open collaboration to build and improve learning resources upon others’ works with ease. Mashups and remixes from open-licensed contents in multiple forms are common. Before customization, many digital learning materials did not match the requirements of different learners! With OER, educators can promote collaboration and provide customized resources for students. For example, the Floe (Flexible Learning for Open Education) project (http://www.floeproject.org/) provides resources needed to enable inclusive access to personally relevant, engaging learning opportunities for diverse learners and content producers. Through the Open Education Resources community, Floe makes tools that help transform, augment, and personalize the learning experience.
All open source efforts about open content and open source software have resulted in the distributed, diversified, and continuous growing nature of OER and open learning, including in content design, formats, contexts, tools, and platforms. It’s impossible to be bounded inside any LMS. XAPI provides better data interoperability between different types of educational systems and devices.
Open Learning Analytics
Open Learning Analytics, an integrated and modularized platform, was proposed by SoLAR (Society for Learning Analytics Research) to build an open platform approach to integrate heterogeneous learning analytics techniques (Siemens et al., 2011). It fundamentally requires an open platform with standards for adding new “plugins.” As long as developers of analytics, recommender services, visual user interfaces, and intervention strategies comply with these standards, their work can become part of this ecosystem. The open and extensible learning analytics platform aims to grow an ecosystem of stakeholders and tools around this. The concept of the platform and the community around it are depicted in Figure-3 (Shum, 2012).
In an interview at the Open Learning Analytics summit with Josh Baron, Baron pointed out that open standards like xAPI and Learning Record Store (LRS) can bring data from diversified sources into a single repository. After xAPI data are sent to any one LRS, they can be retrieved and aggregated by another LRS for analytics and reporting purposes. An open standard like xAPI makes the Open Learning Analytics picture possible (Grush, 2014).
The United Kingdom non-departmental public body JISC have an initiative called Effective Learning Analytics. The Effective Learning Analytics challenge is about using data and analytics to support students; improving satisfaction, retention and graduation rates. The whole architecture, including a learning analytics processor, a staff dashboard, an alert and intervention system, a student app, and a learning records warehouse, is built upon using xAPI as the foundation for Open Learning Analytics (Sclater, 2015).
“Data is the 21st century’s new raw material.” said Rt Hon. Francis Maude, minister of the cabinet office and paymaster general, in the Foreword of the Open Data White Paper – Unleashing the Potential (Maude, 2012). Open Data is becoming an invaluable resource for research and scientific communities in many areas. Open sharing of anonymized learning data makes open collaboration on learning analytics research possible, and if the data from different sources are made interoperable, this will speed up the advance. “Open Data as OER” is a new initiative in the UK exploring the use of real world open data in educational contexts, but “open silios” — for want of data interoperability — is the first barrier to the ideal (Campbell, 2015).
(continue to read: Experience API (xAPI): Potential for Open Educational Resources – Part 3)