The Activity Data programme

We have recently funded a new programme to focus on the ways that universities can benefit from collecting, analysing and reusing the data about the way that their staff and students interact with institutional systems.

There are obvious examples of this type of innovation paying dividends in the commercial world such as Tesco’s use of clubcard data and Amazon’s recommendation services but there are fewer examples of this in the Higher Education sector.  JISC has funded this programme to assess the opportunities available to universities and to build on any promising opportunities that emerge.

We have funded 8 projects to explore activity data in institutions and a synthesis project to ensure that the information produced by each project is collected and communicated to ensure that as many people as possible can benefit from the projects.

  • AEIOU – Aberystwyth University – investigating a recommender service and research gateway for the research papers stored in the institutional repositories of the Welsh Higher Education Institutions
  • Agtivity – University of Manchester – analysing the usage and improving the service of the Advanced Video Conferencing offered by the Access Grid Support centre.
  • Exposing VLE Data – University of Cambridge – driving improvements to the institutional Virtual Learning Environment and the support services that surround it by analysing and reusing data on usage of the VLE.
  • Library Impact Data – Huddersfield University – proving a statistically significant correlation between library usage and student attainment using data from Huddersfield, University of Bradford, De Montfort University, University of Exeter, University of Lincoln, Liverpool John Moores University, University of Salford, Teesside University.
  • RISE – Open University – producing a recommender service based on the usage of library electronic resources.
  • STAR-Trak:NG – Leeds Metropolitan University – developing an application  to highlight and manage interventions with students who are at risk of dropping out, identified primarily by mining student activity data held in corporate systems.
  • UCIAD – Open University – integrating user activity data from different systems within a University using semantic technologies.

Slightly fuller descriptions of each project are available from the programme page on the JISC website and individual project pages, project blogs and the synthesis project website will be available soon.

As with any programme JISC funds, there are some significant and challenging issues involved in working with user activity data that need to be faced to ensure institutions can benefit from this work. Challenges such as ensuring the privacy of users, sharing and reusing data between institutions and systems and ensuring valid and useful analysis of the data. All of the projects will be addressing these challenges and the synthesis project will be extracting the information they unearth and processing it into easy to digest chunks.

Lots of other people are up to really interesting stuff with activity data in Higher Education. We’ve already had conversations with the Harvard Library Innovation Lab and with the Learning Registry project in the US and there looks to be exciting opportunities for collaboration. So if you are working in this area please get in contact or join in the discussion on Twitter using the tag #jiscad.

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