Visiting Researcher @ Athabasca University, Canada

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About the Job
At Athabasca University
Role Visiting Researcher
Location Canada
Duration 1 month
July 2014
Summary Dived into a Research Collaboration between Athabasca University and Universidad de Chile in the field of Learning Analytics. The knowledge gained in this experience was applied to Sketchpad.

Athabasca University

From July 3 to July 21 of 2014 I was invited by Athabasca University, in Edmonton, Canada, to work as a Visiting Researcher to study and research possibilities of collaboration between AU and University of Chile in the frame of Learning Analytics.

Athabasca University is a Canadian Open Online University, that provides online undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as online courses. AU serves over 40,000 students and offers over 850 courses with an annual $130 million operating budget. Because of its online nature, most of AU’s students are remote and from more than 80 different countries in the world, however most of their graduate students work on-campus as well as their academics and administrative staff, which is who I got to spend time with during this experience.

MI-Writer analysis database screenshotHackystat database screenshot
MI-Writer analysis database screenshot from a test migrating the tool to support the Spanish language
Hackystat database screenshot from data gathered during a Python coding session

Some of the projects that were explored and researched during my time at AU were:

  • MI-Writer: A writing analytics module that integrated into Moodle generates statistics and analysis from the way students go about writing essays.
  • EIDEE: An Eclipse plugin that analyses how students learn to code when using that IDE. This tool can identify patterns, understand where students get stuck or what are their biggest difficulties when learning to program.
  • MI-Dash: A visualization interface to review and analyze the data collected from statistics and analytics recording tools (such as MI-Writer). From this application I got to understand how to identify the data that’s valuable when recording user inputs in order to afterwards come up with valuable visualizations of the user’s behavior.
  • A study of the integration of Hackystat and SCALE into the Sketchpad system architecture.

The Experience

Through these 3 weeks I gained a lot of knowledge about Learning Analytics as a whole, in both theory and practice. I got to explore different kinds of real-world applications of Analytics where measurable profits can be observed from using the correct tools and by recording the right data. I also got to make connections with important academics in the field of Learning Analytics and with experts in implementing such tools.

Everything that I learned in this experience was later implemented in some form in Sketchpad; in both the techniques for gathering and recording data and the visualizations and interfaces to present the data to users. Everything in Sketchpad’s Analytics Dashboard wouldn’t have been possible to be created without the knowledge acquired during my time in Canada.


  • Explored and gained knowledge about the uses of Analytics tools in Learning environments.
  • Made connections with experts in Analytics at Athabasca University.

Frameworks, Software and Technology used

  • Apache HTTP Server
  • Moodle
  • PHP
  • Java
  • Python
  • MySQL
  • PostgreSQL
  • MI-Writer
  • MI-Dash
  • Hackystat
  • Learning Analytics
  • Analytics
  • Eclipse
  • Xampp