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Overview: How Course Alignment Provides In-depth Learning Data

Submitted by on June 10, 2013 – 11:13 amNo Comment

thumb tack pinned on dataThis post is part of an on-going series that discusses how to gather learning analytics through course alignment.

The most popular buzzwords in education today include “learning analytics” —institutions and instructors at all educational levels are being asked to more accurately measure and ensure learner success.

We have access to numerous new tools that assist with gathering and evaluating learning analytics, but the most basic method for measuring student learning and retention is through a course’s quality framework, or alignment, that supports curriculum goals—from top to bottom.

How does alignment help me gather learning analytics?

Alignment occurs when materials and assessments used within a given segment of study accurately prepare students to meet the stated learning objectives. Typically, we ensure alignment within an individual course, but alignment should also be scaled up—to the program, department, college, and university level—and down—to individual questions and assessment activities within the course.

A carefully aligned course, program, and department can provide you with a large amount of information to document student progress:

  • In what areas of your course do students struggle, and what areas do they quickly understand?
  • Which courses in your program need additional work or redesign, and which ones produce successful results time after time?
  • How can you streamline the process you use for institutional improvement or outside accreditation?

The answers to these questions lie in creating a comprehensive framework that allows you to collect in-depth statistical information.

How do I create strong alignment?

The critical ingredients for creating alignment (at any level) begin with measurable objectives. Whether you’re creating goals for a departmental strategic plan, or learning objectives within a single module of a course, ensuring that these objectives truly represent what you want to measure is essential.

Begin with course-level learning objectives, since you—the instructor—typically create them on your own (alignment is also one of the best ways to increase the overall quality of your course, and Standards 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 of the Quality Matters rubric are dedicated to ensuring alignment).

Design your course with alignment in mind, which can easily be done using backward or forward design techniques.

For a more in depth look at alignment, check out these posts: Designing for Alignment Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)

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