Utilizing exported data from teaching and learning systems

Over the years I have seen and responded to academic and senior management interest in usage data to support teaching and learning. Digital tools often provide access to data to provide insight to how they are being used. This helps better manage our time and effort, as well as resource. For this post, I have asked Benoit Sharp, the ITS trainer, to contribute and help promote the support and resources the University offer.

Having already mentioned analytics in Online teaching spaces: Exploring the digital myths, Microsoft Excel allows us to view data in a manageable and meaningful way. Excel files are often referred to as workbooks, which can contain one to many worksheets. Good management of these worksheets, help us utilise these in the longer term. Data can be sorted into one or multiple fields/columns to make it easier to analyse.

Data, for example Panopto usage data, can have filters added to reduce what we see to specific areas of interest. There are other options available to manage and view, but another of my favourites is the freeze panes option, which allows me to be sure what fields the data is part of with large volumes of data. There is often a need to do more with exported data, like make checks and extract parts of it, and this is where functions and formulas come in. Here are some examples:

  • SUM is useful for quickly totalling a range’s values.
  • SUMIF allows totalling of numerical data based on data in another range.
  • COUNT allows us to count up numeric instances, and similarly COUNTIF will count instances but based on a criteria.
  • VLOOKUP allows us to use multiple data tables, to bring across data, where a column value (like a name or id) exists in both tables.
  • IF can be used by itself, or expanded upon, to create a field with data from checking another field (you could check if people are revising based on recent dates).

My final functions to mention are LEFT and RIGHT, which allow you to create a field with data and take a number of characters from another field, either starting from the left or the right. More information on functions and formulas in Excel can be found in this video Excel Formulas and Functions Quick Tips.

A quick point about General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) when gathering data and analysing it. Any use of personal data must be necessary and proportionate, so Canvas data use should be reasonable, and usually linked with teaching and assessment. In most cases you should be making the data anonymous and creating your own summaries. If you have any queries about data protection, please contact GDPR@sussex.ac.uk  

Support for analysing data and understanding Excel is available to you at Sussex. EE can help you understand what data is available and how to act upon your findings (contact your School LT or email tel@sussex.ac.uk). ITS can provide you with access to data (where needed) and will offer training material to develop your skills. You can contact ITS by visiting the ITS website and clicking on the ‘Contact us for help’ tile to open a support ticket.

LinkedIn Learning has loads of helpful tutorials on how to use Excel – Benoit would recommend Excel: Managing and Analyzing Data to start.

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