Landing : Athabascau University

Investigating student motivation in the context of a learning analytics intervention during a summer bridge program

Very interesting, carefully performed and well articulated study that seems to suggest that showing students their data from early warning systems (learning analytics systems designed to identify at-risk student behaviours, usually through their interactions, or lack of interactions, in a learning management system) generally has a negative impact on their intrinsic motivation.

This is pretty much what one might expect because, as the researchers suggest, it inevitably shifts the focus from mastery to performance, and away from doing something for its own sake. This is probably among the worst things you could do to a learner, so it is not a trivial problem. It doesn't negate the value of an EWS when used as intended, to help identify at-risk students and to focus tutor attention where it is most needed. I believe that an EWS can be very useful, as long as it is used with care (in every sense) and the results are treated critically. But it does raise a few alarm bells about the need to educate educators not just on the effective use of EWSs but on the nature of motivation in general. 


  • I wonder if this negative result from comparing one's performance to others (as indicated from analytics) is culturally dependent. When I did a study with a Japanese Colleague with Japanese students we foudn that motivation to blog (in English) imporved when the students were able to see their performace as compared to the class norms. see 

    Miyazoe, T., Anderson, T., & Sato, S. (2013). An Exploratory Study on Blog Visualization and Learners' Reactions in an Online Learning Community (in Japanese). Journal of Educational Media Research, 19(1), 35-46.  

    Certainly, here in China, students seem very motivated to please teachers (external yes) but very powerful.


    Terry Anderson December 7, 2014 - 6:32pm

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