As educators, we use assessment as a means of measuring student performance and progress. These tests are merely snapshots of continuous learning that too often fail to paint the bigger picture. 21st century educators are faced with the challenge of tracking student performance and progress accurately in an age where we are all aware of the shortcomings of assessment, and yet we still fumble at finding a better alternative. Apart from our awareness of the flaws in our system, we are also conscious that we’re moving swiftly into an age where personalized instruction is at the forefront. How then, can educators ensure every single student is accurately measured through standardized tests riddled with flaws, that somehow incorporate personalized learning? It seems 21st century measurement of student achievement faces the challenge of incorporating the old with the new, the ancient with the modern. It’s clear to me that the chances of succeeding in such a task without the integration of technology are slim to none, which brings me to learning analytics.

An Introduction to Learning Analytics

The term “learning analytics” has been making the rounds in the EdTech world for quite some time now. Schools around the world are beginning to reap the benefits of using data as a means of accurately measuring student performance. While many educators may cringe at the term “data”, based on the assumption that it holds no place within the school environment, I urge you to dig deeper into its many possibilities. Many K-12 and higher education institutions are integrating learning analytics, not only to measure student progress and performance as accurately, and as efficiently, as possible, but to simultaneously boost student achievement and slash teachers’ workload. So how can data possibly provide schools with such a solution to improving learning outcomes and teacher morale?

Learning analytics essentially combines the use of data and visualization with the learning process. In short, it measures, collects and presents data based on student progress and performance, in a way that educators can easily comprehend. The process relies on web-based systems, which makes it an ideal solution for flipped, blended or mobile learning environments. Many systems that integrate learning analytics continuously track a student’s progress, automatically updating results as a student’s learning advances. By operating automatically on a continuous basis, the system helps teachers to cut back on the administrative tasks of manually tracking and recording student progress. The findings are then mapped out on an interactive gradebook, accessible by student, teacher, administrator and parent, presented in a clear and detailed way to avoid confusion. This not only frees up the time of teachers to focus on other tasks, it ensures communication of student progress at all times, to all involved, increasing the student’s chances of success.

Personalized Learning and Analytics

Adaptive systems, however,  take learning analytics a step further, using it as a means of facilitating personalized instruction. Fishtree’s Performance Analytics give access to student progress in the same way, offering the most in-depth insight into a student’s learning. The results are updated in real-time, giving an educator access to each and every student’s progress. But what sets Fishtree apart is its adaptive nature. What the system essentially does is it provides students with assessments and activities assigned by the teacher. It then allows a student to continue to the next learning objective, only when the first is successfully completed. If a student does not pass the score threshold (specified by the teacher), the system automatically remediates the student, then, and only then, giving access to personalized resources to boost learning outcomes. The system is very careful not to take over, engaging the teacher in the entire process, with instant remediation and feedback options available at all times. Throughout this learning process, the teacher has access to all progress and performance analytics that outline exactly what resources each student has used, whether a student is on a main or an adaptive path, and what a student scored on every learning objective.

By combining learning analytics with the personalization process, students are allowed to work at their own pace, based on their specific learning criteria. The instant feedback and remediation options ensure that no student gets left behind, while the analytics provide invaluable insight into how a student learns, what has been learned, and who requires further help. This significantly boosts student engagement, retention of information and thus achievement, while decreasing the teacher workload.

It may sound somewhat incredible, as it does to most on their first encounter. But the basic truth is that learning analytics is moving fast, and it’s only moving in one direction. According to the NMC Horizon Report: 2014 K-12 Edition, “For learners, educators, and researchers, learning analytics is already starting to provide crucial insights into student progress and interaction with online texts, courseware, and learning environments used to deliver instruction”, describing it as an important development for schools, set to develop significantly over the next few years. With the introduction of Fishtree’s Performance Analytics, this development has already begun. With a digital tool that facilitates adaptive learning, while offering the most detailed insight into student learning imaginable, schools simply cannot afford to look away.

Ready to move towards 21st century classrooms and get started with learning analytics? Keep an eye out for news from Fishtree, as Fishtree Performance Analytics is coming very soon! In the meantime, check out how Fishtree helps teachers to plan lessons, create assignments and see student performance in one place.

About the author:


Lorna Keane is a teacher of French, English and ESL. She specializes in language teaching and has taught in second and third-level institutions in several countries. She holds a B.A in languages and cultural studies and an M.A in French literature, theory and visual culture. Subscribe to her blog or follow her on Twitter.


Image credits: justgrimes / CC BY 2.0