Answer to "How do learning analytics represent an advance on what we did 'till now?"


Topic Editor: Dr. Teresa Chan, McMaster University


Learning analytics take advantage of three developing trends in the collection and analysis of educational data:

  1. Increased digitization of increased amounts and types of relevant learning data

  2. Better analysis using both statistical techniques and data mining;  the hope is to build in artificial intelligence as well

  3. Better visualizations including dynamic dashboards that update in real-time as opposed to quarterly, annually etc.


Prior to this, assessment of learning in health professions education was usually a summative activity at the end of a term. With 1-2 data points, it is difficult to discern meaningful trends.  However, with the advent of competency-based medical education, there has been a substantive change in the way that we assess trainees (1), with an imperative for increased quantification and qualification of their performances throughout training (2).


Of course, this is not without some level of error, since pragmatic data sources such as workplace-based assessment can be cumbersome at times. Due to various reasons, data can be "missing" and require educators to determine the best imputation techniques for their particular analyses (3).



  1. Holmboe ES, Sherbino J, Long DM, Swing SR, Frank JR, International CBME Collaborators. The role of assessment in competency-based medical education. Medical teacher. 2010 Aug 1;32(8):676-82.

  2. 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.

  3. McConnell M, Sherbino J, Chan TM. Mind the gap: the prospects of missing data. Journal of graduate medical education. 2016 Dec;8(5):708-12.

  4. Ellaway, Rachel H., Martin V. Pusic, Robert M. Galbraith, and Terri Cameron. "Developing the role of big data and analytics in health professional education." Medical teacher 36, no. 3 (2014): 216-222. (Table from this paper)

  5.  Triola, Marc M., Richard E. Hawkins, and Susan E. Skochelak. "The time is now: Using graduates’ practice data to drive medical education reform." Academic Medicine 93, no. 6 (2018): 826-828.

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