My Research – Learning Analytics, Data Mining & Machine Learning

Dr. Michael Madden

In October 2015, I was delighted to start a PhD with the Machine Learning & Data Mining research group at the National University of Ireland, Galway. The group sits in the IT Department and my supervisor is Dr. Michael Madden. My research interests lie at the intersection of learning and computer systems – and in particular – Learning Analytics.

Over the past 10 years we have seen the widespread deployment of Learning Management Systems (LMS) like Blackboard & Moodle across our education sectors. We are also seeing learning reach outside the individual institution with the evolution of learning on social media platforms and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

With Hamda Binte Ajmal & Ankita Garg – colleagues at the Machine Learning & Data Mining research group at NUI Galway

While we could argue about how effective the adoption of these systems has been, there is no doubt that they are changing how we learn and how we teach. They are generating vast quantities data and revealing new insights on how learning happens. We are seeing a powerful force emerging – but with great power comes great responsibility. The choices we make now in how we harness this data will have a profound effect on the way we see learning, the way we think about it and the way it will shape our lives in the future.

Learning spaces comprise threads of developmental connection between learners and teachers. From a teaching point-of-view, they require what Stephen Brookfield referred to as the ‘Three Rs’ of teaching: Respect, Responsiveness & Research. When we make interventions there, based on purely quantitative measures, there is a danger that we could damage these threads. We also face profound ethical issues around privacy and freedom when we consider effective use of learner and teacher data.

Despite these concerns, I am optimistic about the potential of Learning Analytics for good – in our schools, universities, CoderDojos and learning spaces. In this blog I hope to document my research into this potential.

Thank you for reading.


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