Answer to “What are learning analytics?”

Topic Editor: Dr. Teresa Chan, McMaster University


The practice of learning analytics describes a variety of data analysis techniques to describe, characterize, and predict the learning behaviors of individuals and groups."(1)   It represents an intersection between the fields of computer science, statistics and the learning sciences. 


Learning analytics are not beholden to specific forms of analysis; which means that wide and varied analytic techniques can be used, so long as they are actually able to help describe, characterize, or predict learning at either the individual or group level. Analysis techniques can be wide ranging from quantitative methods derivative of regression modelling (2) to qualitative methods that harness the power of natural language processing. More advanced recent versions of these analyses may use machine learning algorithms (3) or other more advanced analytic techniques to accomplish similar goals.


An approachable overview has been prepared for general educators by the U.S. Dept of Education.(4)   We recommend it highly. 


  1. Chan T, Sebok‐Syer S, Thoma B, Wise A, Sherbino J, Pusic M. Learning Analytics in Medical Education Assessment: The Past, the Present, and the Future. AEM Education and Training. 2018 Apr;2(2):178-87.

  2. Chan TM, Sherbino J, Mercuri M. Nuance and Noise: Lessons Learned From Longitudinal Aggregated Assessment Data. Journal of graduate medical education. 2017 Dec;9(6):724-9.

  3. Ariaeinejad A, Samavi R, Chan TM, Doyle TE. A performance predictive model for emergency medicine residents. InProceedings of the 27th Annual International Conference on Computer Science and Software Engineering 2017 Nov 6 (pp. 28-37). IBM Corp.

  4. Bienkowski, Marie, Mingyu Feng, and Barbara Means. "Enhancing teaching and learning through educational data mining and learning analytics: An issue brief." US Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology 1 (2012): 1-57.  Available at

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