POV Ernie Perez

POV: Leveraging Learning Analytics at Boston University

Audio: Digital Learning & Innovation’s EdTech Director Ernie Perez


Understanding the learning behavior of students is an important aspect of teaching and the utilization of learning analytics, the measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, provide greater understanding of student learning and the environments in which the learning occurs.

What Are the Benefits of Learning Analytics?

Analytics are no longer nice to have but a must-have. I was recently a virtual panelist for the 6 Ed Tech Trends to Watch in 2020 article published in the January/February issue of Campus Technology. In this forum, the benefits of learning analytics and the power of dashboard-driven data delivery were a prominent topic of discussion.  

Learning analytics have immense value. They can show how often a student logs in to the learning management system, provide faculty with a student performance overview in a given class, show administrators how a set of students are doing in a given program, and can even show students how they compare to others in the same class, without identifying other students. Learning analytics can also help us identify a student that is falling behind, which in turn will help us with the retention of students and help students persist to graduation.

Qiyuan Li
Qiyuan Li, Data Modeler & Developer with Boston University’s Digital Learning & Innovation

Data Analytics at Boston University

To this end, we at DL&I have recently hired our first data modeler that will focus solely on learning analytics. Qiyuan Li joins us from Penn State and has experience with learning analytics, in particular, using data from large MOOC style courses. The Online MBA program through Boston University’s Questrom School of Business will be the first program that we will work with to build and deliver these learning analytics dashboards.

Collaboration & Partnership Efforts

Ernie Perez QuoteOur EdTech team is committed to working with the campus stakeholders—Registrar, Institutional Research, IS&T, Office of Distance Education, colleges, departments, and others around campus—to build usable analytics dashboards for students, faculty, and administrators to advance teaching and learning at our institution.

While we will partner with many stakeholders around BU to make these dashboards happen, we will also need to work with our vendors such as Blackboard, edX, and others, to acquire quality data feeds. Ideally, we will use known standards like Caliper to get the right data, at the right time to deliver rich datasets that will, in turn, translate into usable and actionable analytics dashboards.

Predictive Analytics

Ernie Perez Quote 2In time, after we have enough data and can marry these data with other institutional data from the Academic Data Warehouse (ADW), we will be able to start using different models to help us predict when students need additional help or are struggling in a class. These predictive analytics will help us find out about these issues before it is too late and allow faculty and advisors to reach out to students in a just-in-time manner.

Data Privacy

As always data privacy and security are at the top of the list. We will need to make sure that only the appropriate people have access to these dashboards by following university policies and FERPA regulations. We also need to consider the ethical use of these data as we start using them to make decisions. The Association of Institutional Research recently published a statement of ethical principals that we will take into consideration as we move forward with this initiative. Some of the points mentioned include:

  • recognizing the consequences of data usage on “people and situations”
  • making efforts to protect data from “misuse or use that could cause harm”
  • acting as “responsible data stewards” and
  • providing “accurate and contextualized information” to prevent the misuse of data to mislead anybody.

We at BU’s DL&I will now set forth to partner with university stakeholders—Questrom, IS&T, Registrar and others—to bring learning analytics to the BU community, starting with the OMBA in Fall 2020. 


Ernie Perez
About the Author: Ernie Perez is director of Educational Technology with Boston University’s Office of Digital Learning & Innovation. As director, Perez plays a leading role in the visioning, management, selection, and deployment of enterprise-level educational technology services