Discovering Processes and Patterns of Learning in Collaborative Learning Environments Using Multi-modal Discourse Analysis

Great work by Kate Thompson from the ARC Laureate team. This paper is available on open access from the journal website. It’s published in Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning (RPTEL), the official journal of the Asia-Pacific Society for Computers in Education (APSCE).

Full reference: Kate Thompson, Shannon Kennedy-Clark, Lina Markauskaite and Vilaythong Southavilay (2014) Discovering Processes and Patterns of Learning in Collaborative Learning Environments Using Multi-modal Discourse Analysis, Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning 9 (2), 215-40


Multimodal learning analytics, with a focus on discourse analysis, can be used to discover, and subsequently understand, the processes and patterns of learning in complex learning environments. Our work builds upon and integrates two types of research: (a) process analytic approaches of dynamically captured video and computer-screen activity and (b) learning analytics. By combining previous analyses of a dataset with new analyses of the processes of learning, patterns of successful and unsuccessful collaboration were identified. In this paper, the results of the application of a heuristics miner to utterances coded with the Decision-Function Coding Scheme, are combined with the results of First Order Markov transitions and in-depth linguistic analysis of the discourse to analyse the processes of collaborative problem solving within a scenario-based virtual world. The analysis of dependency graphs extracted from students’ event logs revealed problem solving actions enacted by students, as well as the dependency relationships between these actions. The addition of in-depth linguistic analysis explained the micro-level discourse of students, producing the observable patterns. Integration of these findings with those previously reported added to the depth of our understanding about this complex learning environment. We conclude with a discussion about the design of the tasks, the processes of collaboration, and the analytic approach that is presented in this paper.

Untold story: Design as Scholarship in the Learning Sciences

Vanessa Svihla & Richard Reeve are putting together a book on this topic and are soliciting contributions. Some details below. Email vsvihla at & reever at soon for further info. Closing date for chapter proposals is 30 July 2014.


Learning scientists commonly report the design of an activity, object, or environment intended to produce some sort of learning or experience. The venues in which we publish typically do not encourage us to detail our designing as it occurred; this results in final form presentation of our work, which in turn leads to a picture of designing as deceptively straightforward. Worse, we argue, it provides little guidance about the reality of how researchers go about designing for learning. Those in the field are left to imagine how the process might have occurred and in turn are led to believe designing is simplistically phasic. In addition, the siren call for design principles is symptomatic of the felt-need for more certainty in our designs. Even in our tradition of conducting design-based research, designing is given short shrift, with much focus put to the designed product and how it instantiates a theory of learning. Design principles are treated both as a means to instantiate theory into design solutions and as an output of our work as a way to generalize findings. The former appears to stand in for client needs when design process is not reported; the latter can be difficult to use outside of the original context and can misfire or malfunction when applied piecemeal or superficially, without sufficient concern for how these principles may function in relationship to the local instructional context. Designing, particularly when client needs are also sought, can take on a distinctly emergent, even opportunistic form, and is typically iterative and even agile. Treating designing as unproblematic limits transferability of our work, and holds us back. Being honest about our designing has the potential to aid us — and others — in surfacing great ideas for learning. By, in effect, holding back on what we suggest are authentic aspects of designing, we may be limiting the new and improved ideas that could benefit the future of education.

The architecture of productive learning networks

Cover - The Architecture of Productive Learning Networks[1]

Really pleased with the latest book from our ARC Laureate project.

It’s been a pleasure working with Lucila Carvalho (post-doc on the project and lead editor of the book). Lucila has done an amazing job in picking case study networks, assembling the team of authors, helping everyone tune in to the analytic framework and managing the million other tasks needed in getting a book from initial concept to final publication.

APLN has been a really useful way of developing skills, shared understanding and research profile within the Laureate team too: all the postdocs and PhD students have played a role in co-authoring chapters.

On Amazon here.