This post is written for our thesis students. But do feel free to join in on the conversation!
As you may or may not know, learning analytics and learning dashboards, a Quantified-Self take on learning, is an important part of our research here at the HCI research group. Most of you have taken Prof. Duval‘s classes and have had to blog, tweet, read and comment on each others’ work. For your thesis, we’re asking you again to blog and track time with Toggl. But the reasoning behind all this might not be that clear to all of you.
First of all, these activities force you to stand still and think about what you are doing. This is certainly the case for blogs, where you have to do proper research and think before you start writing anything down. This alone will make you understand the subject matter better and already puts you on the path to becoming a better learner.
But what about Toggl? And Twitter? What uses have they except for tracking your every move? Are we really watching you? Is HCI Big Brother?
The data we track has one main goal. To create learning dashboards to improve your learning process. This way we can feed the data back to you to provide you ways of finding patterns in your habits and change your ways to become a better learner.
Let’s explain this with two examples:
You go out drinking quite late. You have an early class next morning. The professor isn’t motivating you much with that book he’s reading from. You have a heavy, greasy lunch. Your afternoon is free so you decide to work on your thesis. Hours go by but you eventually feel like you haven’t accomplished anything.
Quite a depressing example. Here’s another:
You’ve had a great night sleep. You have an early class and it’s super interesting! The professor’s a genius! Your afternoon is free, the weather is awful so you decide to head to the library. You work a few hours on your thesis and feel super productive.
While in these extreme circumstances it’s obvious what affects your motivation and productivity, there are many more factors that influence your learning. And with dashboards, we can present you that information through interesting visualizations that allow you to find the pieces of data relevant to your learning, so you can figure out what parameters influence you positively, or negatively. You can figure out what works for you, and what doesn’t!
We’re not just talking general guidelines. Too much alcohol will make most people unproductive. But noise? Music? Weather? These things can have a different effects on people. And there’s a good chance there are factors you never even considered!
To keep the overhead low, we decided we can use Toggl once more. We’d like to define a bunch of categories which would help you log certain personal and environmental information, like mood (happy, sad,…), physical state (hungover, active, awake,…), location (library, home, parents, friends,..), noise (roommates, music, birds), how your time was spent (productive, waste of time,…)… The list hasn’t been set in stone, but you get the idea.
And before we start, we’d like your feedback on this matter. What would be interesting data you wished you’d have a better view on? What do you think affects your motivation and productivity? And what are your general thoughts on learning dashboards anyway?