October 19, 2017

Appropriate interventions following the application of learning analytics

Humble Pie 2

SAIDE (2015) Siyaphumelela Inaugural Conference May 14th – 15th 2015 SAIDE Newsletter, Vol. 21, No.3

Reading sources in the right order can avoid you having to eat humble pie. Immediately after posting Privacy and the Use of Learning Analytics in which I questioned the ability of learning analytics to suggest appropriate interventions, I came across this article in the South African Institute of Distance Education’s (SAIDE) newsletter about a conference in South Africa on Exploring the potential of data analytics to inform improved practice in higher education: connecting data and people.

At this conference, Professor Tim Renick, Vice-President of Georgia State University in the USA, reported on his institution’s accomplishment of eliminating race and income as a predictor of student success.

This has been achieved through implementing various initiatives based on data mining of twelve years’ worth of student data. The university’s early warning system, based on predictive analysis, has spawned a number of tested and refined low cost, scalable, innovative programmes such as:

  • supplemental instruction by former successful students;
  • formation of freshman learning communities which entail groups of 25 students enrolled in “meta-majors” ;
  • block scheduling of courses ;
  • re-tooled pedagogies involving adaptive learning software;
  • and small, prudent financial retention grants.

The combination of the above has resulted in phenomenally reduced student attrition.

I have no further comment (for once!). I would though be interested in yours.

Incidentally, there were other interesting articles in the SAIDE newsletter, including:

Each of these reports has important lessons for those interested in these issues that go far beyond the individual cases themselves. Well worth reading.


Course design and materials development guide for open learning

Drew, S. (2013) Course design and materials development guide Johannesburg South Africa: SAIDE

Saide (the South African Institute for Distance Education) has published an excellent Course Design and Materials Development Guide, aimed at supporting education practitioners to design and develop high quality teaching and learning materials to support learner success. It is published on the Saide website as an Open Educational Resource (OER) under a Creative Commons licence.

Sheila Drew elaborates on the purpose of the guide in the SAIDE Newsletter


This is a useful guide, especially for those new to open, online or distance learning, or those wishing to develop or use open educational resources..



The African Health OER Network

Mawayo, M. and Tlaka, M. (2011) The African Health OER Network, SAIDE Newsletter, Vol. 17, No. 5

A useful short description of the African Health OER Network.

The role of the Network is to:

  • Aggregate the results of multiple health education initiatives by collecting, classifying, indexing, and then actively distributing African-initiated resources with the global health community;
  • Facilitate discussion of how these resources can best be used;
  • Share best practices, e.g., OER production and advocacy;
  • Aggregate content to develop and deliver a critical mass of learning materials; and
  • Work through institutions and associations to advocate the principles of openness and of sharing educational materials. This includes helping institutions to create an enabling policy environment for OER production and use.

The African Health OER Network has a nice new web site, with nearly 300 resources for free downloading. About half are in the Public and Community Health area.

OERs for agriculture in Africa


Millet farm, Kenya © Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Mallinson, B. (2010) AgShare Open Educational Resources (OER) Collaboration SAIDE Newsletter, Vol. 16, No. 6

AgShare is an 18-month planning and piloting project in which Michigan State University (MSU) and the South African Institute of Distance Education’s OER Africa Initiative are working with a range of African anchor partners to build the foundation of the AgShare Open Educational Resources (OER) collaboration.

The vision of AgShare is to become a catalyst for collaboration and alignment among existing African OER and agricultural organizations to strengthen MSc agriculture curricula.

The four partner Higher Education institutions (HEIs) selected for the pilots were Makerere University (Uganda), Haramaya University (Ethiopia), United States International University (USIU) and Moi University, both situated in Kenya.

Free new guide to teaching at a distance from South Africa

The South African Institute of Distance Education has developed a new guide for adjunct instructors supporting learners at a distance (called tutors outside North America).

From the press release

Gabi Witthaus, now on the Beyond Distance Research Alliance (BDRA) team at the University of Leicester (UK), started working with SAIDE in 2008 to update the publication as a web-based guide to distance tutoring, using the affordances of the web–linked pages, with external as well as internal links, and the facility to insert multi-media as well as text-based resources. The revised resource incorporates much of the accumulated wisdom from Saide’s eighteen years of existence, but also embrace recent developments such as the Open Educational Resources ‘movement’, and the proliferation of learning and research tools in a Web 2.0 environment.

The resource is available not only on Saide’s own OER website, but also in the OER repository of the University of Leicester, and on the higher education OER repository in the United Kingdom, Jorum.

The abstract for the resource reads:

This is a set of course materials intended for tutors in blended learning or fully online programmes. It takes readers reflectively through what it means to support learners in e-learning environments of a variety of kinds – both at a distance, and in conventional contact tuition environments that are web supported. The materials have been designed for learning in developing contexts in which bandwidth is often a challenge.

The materials include a sample learning pathway with key activities which illustrate how the materials can be used in an online course for the training of tutors using Web 2.0 tools such as forums, blogs, and wikis.

The abstract highlights the distinction between the course materials and the learning pathway that guides learners through the course materials. Without a learning pathway, learner engagement with the course materials runs the risk of becoming a random encounter without a clear purpose or results.


SAIDE has a long experience of distance education in often challenging conditions. Institutions in economically advanced countries who have recently moved into online learning could benefit greatly from the wisdom and experience gathered in this resource.