Part 8: Fall 2018 Labs

126 Learning Analytics – 09.07.2018

Learning analytics help track student learning. These data enable instructors to improve curriculum, define outcomes, and adjust teaching based on student performance. In the September 7, 2018 Active Teaching Lab, participants explored learning analytic tools available in Canvas, investigated what trends can be identified from that data, and discussed how those trends can inform teaching. 


  • Learning analytics can be especially informative in online courses with limited or no face-to-face meetings, but it’s also easier to form assumptions and biases when the data rather than in-class interactions serve as a primary representation of student work.
  • Analytics shed light on learning at two levels: the general course trends and individual performance. Once the goal of identifying trends from numbers is achieved, the greater challenge lies in determining what those trends actually mean for teaching.
  • Analytics provided by Canvas, such as time and clicks, can be misleading if students are downloading materials for offline use or leaving materials open while doing other tasks.
  • Two useful pieces of information to glean from Canvas include 1) what materials were referenced and 2) when they were referenced. This can be used, for example, to assist students who performed poorly on an exam by showing if and how far in advance they accessed the content.
  • Canvas analytics can also depict if and which online content is most heavily used by students, helping instructors to direct materials-creation time to where it is most needed and appreciated.
  • The Canvas Student Access Report generates an Excel file that can be sorted to view which Canvas Pages had the most activity.
  • Creating a rubric that sets standards for student engagement on Canvas can help define participation expectations for online content. For example, a discussion rubric may deduct points if a student logs in less than 30 minutes prior to the discussion closing.

For more information on learning analytics, visit the session’s activity sheet.


The Active Teaching Lab is a Faculty Engagement program with sessions held on Thursdays from 1:00-2:00pm (room 302) and Fridays from 8:30-9:45am (room 120) in the Middleton Building (1305 Linden Dr.) during fall 2018. Check out upcoming Labs or read the recaps from past Labs. We build interdisciplinary conversations that are more emergent than a presenter and more dynamic than a panel — a conversation with colleagues sharing challenges, solutions, and experiments on topics selected by a variety of stakeholders.

Sign up for regular Lab announcements by sending an email to


Active Teaching Lab eJournal Copyright © 2016 by DoIT Academic Technology and the UW-Madison Teaching Academy; Jennifer Hornbaker; John Martin; Julie Johnson; Karin Spader; Margaret Merrill; Margaret Murphy; and Jeffrey Thomas. All Rights Reserved.

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