Notes from the Learning Analytics and Knowledge (#LAK16) Conference

My colleague at LSBM Karen Stepanyan, and I spent the week (April 25-29) at LAK 16 in Edinburgh.  Also taking in the ending Key note for Learning@Scale.  Here I record a few notes under three headers, and re-present slides that resonated with me.  As part of the week I participated in these workshops:


Note 1:
Analytics on a live performance (presenting slides in this case)

Somebody at a music college gave me some feedback on their institutions progress with the Canvas LMS. I asked them what might be of interest at LAK16, and they responded: the analytics of performance. Being a musician of sorts myself this was interesting. This paper from Cross-LAK was the closest I encountered to the analytics of a performance: Towards a distributed framework to analyze multimodal data
Vanessa Echeverria, Federico Domínguez and Katherine Chiluiza

Abstract: Data synchronization gathered from multiple sensors and its corresponding reliable data analysis has become a difficult challenge for scalable multimodal learning systems. To tackle this particular issue, we developed a distributed framework to decouple the capture task from the analysis task through nodes across a publish/subscription server…

What was most of interest to me: To see a system with automatic analysis and reporting on the quality of a persons “presentation”  or “performance” – based on analysis of audio and video streams and textural analysis of presentation slides.

Application Example: Multimodal Learning System
Figure 3. Setup of the Multimodal Learning System
Multimodal Learning System- Hardware and Software
Multimodal Learning System- Hardware and Software


Note 2:
Metacognition in learning and Experience Sampling Apps @Scale

These notes are not about one paper, but about what a number of presentations/papers made me wonder.  In short: why am I not aware of an Apps/projects working at scale (~thousands of schools), to help learners, and gather data related to meta-cognition (and maybe the learners emotions as well) – perhaps using an experience sampling method (ESM)?  After all, governments around the world spend a considerable amount of money on educating young people, and it is often less effective than hoped.  This seems like a great albeit difficult project to increase the usefulness of Learning Analytics.

This was a short conversation on twitter related to the thought above. Prompted in part by discussions at the LAL workshop, this  tweet and the App described by Carrie Demmans in her short paper “English Language Learner Experiences of Formal and Informal Learning Environments” … Keywords: ubiquitous learning, experience sampling methodology, informal learning, formal learning, language learning, English language learner, communication, affect, analytics.  Youtube video of presentation

Experience Sampling Methodology - Mobile App
Experience Sampling Methodology – Mobile App. From Carrie Demmans Epp’s LAK short paper: English language learner experiences of formal and informal learning environments

Also I have always thought one of the values of being introduced to the concept of ‘Preferred Learning styles’ was it gets us thinking about how we learn, and the most efficient ways of learning for our selves – meta-cognition.  However “There presently is no empirical justification for tailoring instruction to student’s supposedly different learning styles”.  This is a slide from Prof. dr. Paul A. Kirschner’s keynote lecture

Looking at wrong or invalid variables
Dystopia 3: Looking at wrong or invalid variables

…So this is what got me thinking about Metacognition in learning, and developing Experience Sampling Apps @Scale


Note 3:
New Forms of Assessment

A Dispatch from the Psychometric Front by Professor Robert J. Mislevy.  This was another interesting lecture…Examples applications using new forms of assessment discussed are shown in this slide below: SimCityEDU; Packet Tracer – Cisco Networking Academy….

A Dispatch from the Psychometric Front by Professor Robert J. Mislevy
A Dispatch from the Psychometric Front by Professor Robert J. Mislevy


Useful resources

Doug Clow’s Live blogs:

Google Apps for Education with Hapara & Moodle

With this screen cast and accompanying materials in a Moodle course , I am trying give an overview of what in all likelihood, will in time become the standard way in which schools, colleges & other types of organisations manage large parts of their Information, Communication and Technology.  However the focus will be on the anytime formative assessment of students work (files).   For a good number of years I have been demonstrating & encouraging the adoption of what I think is effective use of technology, and thought I would share  this.   This was in part motivated by the needs of my own teaching practice

Youtube screen cast:

Diagram giving overview of Google Apps, Hapara & Moodle:


Link to Moodle course with accompanying materials:

Proposing some standard parts in all online evironments to support learning

A primary interest of mine is supporting students development, & an important aspect of this is facilitating communication.  @Stanmore college we have implemented what could be called an online “Personalised Learning Environment” (PLE) .  This YouTube screen-cast should give you some insight.  However in my experience it would do no harm if all maintained schools provided certain things as standard to staff & parents online.

In a recent book called “14-18 a new vision for secondary education” by Kenneth Baker (a former secretary of state for education), Mike Tomlinson and others makes a number of recommendations.  The fundamental recommendations being establishing more middle schools for 9-13yrs, and improving the options we offer 14-18 year olds and their families.

It makes the point that we should learn from other countries with lower youth unemployment, and create (~3) substantial, popular & respected alternative pathways to GCSEs @16yrs, and  Alevels @18yrs.  Although it suggests that all 14-18 yr old should have a broad education including English, Maths, Sport, Science… it suggests a larger part of all students learning should be making connections with the real world of work and the jobs we do.  The following PLE diagram includes a page supporting learning pathway choices at 14 & career advice . The diagram should be seen in conjunction with this screen-cast of an initial implementation

#Click image to enlarge

Personalised Learning Environment PLP Draft Proposal
Standard Parts of Personalised Learning Environment PLP Draft Proposal

Notes on migrating to #Moodle 2 with ILP 2 plugin + pruning the DB & site files

Warning (!) These notes might not mean much if you are not involved with Moodle/LMS administration in some way. However, I have found it useful to read and discuss (see footer links) how others have migrated Moodle 1 sites to moodle 2, so have assembled these notes:

Background & overview

@StanmoreCollege started to use Moodle (1.7) in 2007 and it is now used by nearly every member of staff & full time student in some capacity. The broad aim was to prepare the site for another 5 years of intensive communication, learning & creative use. By creative, I mean I wanted the database, codebase & servers setup so the college could readily exploit new services & software that could enhance teaching & learning. For example integrating with other community resources (personal blogs, mnet, hubs…) & publishing to the community. Ideally we would have installed a fresh moodle 2 site & built the 300+ courses from scratch, but this would loose the user account #IDs which links to users (ILP 1.0) Personal Learning Plan data in moodle 1.9 (PLP) & could require returning students to update their profile… This would also take hundreds of hours of teachers time to rebuild the courses, so the compromise was to upgrade the existing moodle 1.9 site to 2.2, then migrate the required courses across to a fresh moodle 2.2 installation (backup & restore), but where certain data* for example the Moodle 1.9 mdl_user table… was migrated to the fresh 2.2 installation.

Site particulars, pruning & upgrade

The site to ugrade was moodle at 1.9+ with ~ 300+ courses to be migrated. In previous years a few courses have exceeded 600Mb when backed up. This has made the course backup & restoration slow, & not worked at all in some cases…For this reason I requested that teachers clean up their courses & delete unused files. I then only kept any files over 20mb in moodledata unless there was a good reason to do so, and did other things like check the length of filenames for files that students & staff had uploaded. One reason why you might want to do this is referred to here . In the end I just used the query below to find the moodledata folder URL e.g

that included these – whole sentence long – filenames, where you can simply ‘Rename’ files. Alternatively you could edit the query just to find these folders. You could also download the result of this query to a spreedsheet, so teachers can identify and shorten file names themselves

 SELECT c.fullname, CONCAT('
 /course/modedit.php?update=', AS cmID,,
 SUBSTRING_INDEX( r.reference, '/' , -1 ) AS FileName,, r.type, r.reference, r.timemodified,cm.course
 FROM mdl_resource r
 JOIN mdl_course_modules cm ON = cm.instance
 JOIN mdl_course c ON cm.course =
 WHERE LENGTH( SUBSTRING_INDEX( r.reference, '/' , -1 ) ) >100
 AND r.reference NOT LIKE 'http%'
 AND r.type <> 'html'
 ORDER BY cm.course DESC ,LENGTH( FileName ) DESC

So after pruning these user files etc. I deleted logs & stats rows from the database (These would be available in yearly archive sites we create @StanmoreCollege should they be need) I transferred the moodle site from a Windows server to a Linux server & performed a command line upgrade . This was so the user files could be processed & migrated into the new way moodle 2 handles & stores files . Below are some more notes on this upgrade:

Modules upgrade notes:

  • ILP (Personal Learning Plans etc) –> inserted ILP 1.0 tables into Moodle 2.2 DB…
  • Book (used for schemes of work) –> installed this mod in moodle 2.0 & 2.1 (becomes native in later versions of Moodle)
  • Turnitin Assignment type –> Deleted all instances of this prior to migration due to issues!
  • Turnitintool (plagiarism detection) –> installed mod in moodle 2
  • Feedback –> Did not migrate data for this (its in the Archive sites anyway)
  • Lightbox gallery –> Did not migrate data for this but reinstalled module later from github

Miscellaneous upgrade notes:

  • Additional 1.9 roles created: Manager, Tutor, Senior tutor, Manual-student were not migrated
  • compared upgrade with fresh DB schemas – used collation utf8_unicode_ci
  • Made changes to grade scales that I wanted to see in the new moodle 2 site

Set up of fresh Moodle 2.2 installation

Thousands of the mdl_user rows from the upgraded table were inserted into this fresh installation. This was necessary because I wanted all returning students to be able to login without requiring them to update their moodle profiles. Also for their ILP 1.0 data to be available.

*other considerations for this fresh moodle 2.2 installation were the password salt, Guest & Admin (ID#2) accounts, user mnethost value, updating links that pointed to our old Moodle site address … Also if you are migrating in this way, before you upload user pictures into your fresh Moodle 2 installation, remember to set picture=0 in the mdl_user table:

 UPDATE mdl_user u
 JOIN mdl_context ctx ON ctx.instanceid
 LEFT JOIN mdl_files f ON = f.contextid
 SET picture = '0'
 WHERE ctx.contextlevel =30
 AND u.picture = 1
 AND f.filearea IS NULL

Migration of courses to fresh Moodle 2.2 installation

This was a case of backing up courses in the site upgraded to moodle 2.2 then restoring them to the fresh Moodle 2.2 installation. Although this was time consuming it presented an opportunity for further pruning:

  • Unused activities & resources were not backed up & restored
  • Blocks were not backed up or restored (keeping things simpler)
  • Last year student user Grades were not restored
  • Courses that were no longer needed were not restored…

This resulted in reducing the DB & moodledata by well over half, which is good as Media & Computer teachers are now needing students to be able to upload files upto 50MB.

Related links:

Moodle 2.0: Making the Leap, Senate House, 29th February 2012

Personalised Learning enhancement to Moodle ILP

We wanted Academic targets to be  more highly visible upon login to our VLE.  Before students had to click though a couple of web pages to get much detail on their Academic targets.

Develop a Moodle block that can be displayed on the front page, beside our very fast moving college news items.  The block will list all Academic targets  that have not been achieved yet, & also those targets past their deadline (in a conspicuous way). When clicked,  the Academic targets link, takes the student through to the Target Action Plan, for the student to make comments.  Click on the following image to enlarge to full size (you sometimes need to click twice), and for a better idea of how this works:

Moodle Personalisation Block plus Staff Report
Stanmore College enhancing personalised learning with Moodle and ILP package

Stanmore College: