Supporting Post-Secondary Educational Data Usage in the Assessment Process with Information Visualization

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Sivanand, Ajay
Assessment Data , Information Visualization , Higher Education , Program Improvement
Programs, institutions, and governments are increasingly looking at data about student learning for both accountability and program improvement activities. Faculties at post-secondary institutions have employed systems to gather vast amounts of assessment data in recent years with the ultimate goal of using the data to improve the student learning experience. Unfortunately, faculty members responsible for this data are unfamiliar with analyzing data sets of this magnitude or complexity and therefore cannot extract actionable insight from the data to inform their program improvement decisions. Approaches to support this process are still developing, referred to largely as Educational Data Mining. Information Visualization is one technique that has shown promise in facilitating the extraction of meaningful information, though there has been little research conducted into where and how visualizations are utilised at a post-secondary level. The ultimate goal of this research is to build a support that encourages the usage of educational data through visualizations. To build one that is effective, a research study was conducted to discover the factors surrounding how educational data was used in this setting. The research was a three-phase qualitative study aimed at determining the attitudes around data usage as well as what aspects of assessment data usage are currently challenging education staff and faculty members in achieving their program improvement goals. The study included interviews, a focus group, and an open-response survey created using an emergent design methodology. Participants were from institutions in Canada, focused largely at Queen’s University. The outcome of the research findings was a model of four major stakeholders in the process of educational data usage and some of the important factors that surround the usage and the interaction between stakeholders. The resulting support tool built from this research aims to support those interactions and specifically identified challenges by bringing the principles from the broader field of information visualization into an accessible form for staff and faculty at post-secondary institutions trying to work with educational data.
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