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Learnics is committed to ensuring that teachers find learning behavior data to be both meaningful and actionable data. To achieve this mission, Learnics partners with researchers to gain a deeper understanding of the way students learn online and develops analytics and training modules to help teachers gain insight and take steps to improve digital learning both in their classroom and outside of it.
Learnics was established in the fall of 2017 by Dr. Greg Cottrell, Dr. Doug Lare & Karl Pietrzak. The story of Learnics really begins in 2012 when Greg Cottrell began working as an assistant principal. The school had recently adopted a 1:1 student Chromebook initiative. To keep students safe online, the school purchased an online monitoring software program that recorded all student online activity on the Chromebook, regardless of if they were at school, at home or at a coffee shop. This software would flag instances when students were trying to access inappropriate websites. It was Greg Cottrell’s job as an assistant principal to review the activity records of students who were flagged for their online behavior. As he would review student records, he was amazed by how much information that was being collected about student online behaviors. It was not uncommon for a student to have over 500 page views in one day. He knew that hidden somewhere in these hundreds of page views was extremely valuable information about student learning. Somewhere buried in the data was information about a unique learning experience for each student. Somewhere in the hundreds of lines of websites visited was information that could help teachers and students better understand how learning occurs online.
Greg Cottrell discussed the potential for the data with his doctoral professor, Doug Lare. They both became extremely interested in understanding how educators could use learning data in the same types of ways that Amazon or Google uses data about their users. Greg Cottrell was in the final years of his doctoral program so he switched dissertation topic to focus on researching targeted learning analytics. Dr. Doug Lare served as Greg’s mentor and dissertation chairman through the research process. The goal of the research was to provide teachers with specific and targeted data about how their students were using their Chromebooks to complete a specific assignment. Greg worked with a handful of teachers to identify an assignment that they wanted analytics for and then he manually sifted and sorted through the hundreds of page views for each student in order to identify the online activity that was specifically conducted for the targeted assignment. He was then able to tell each teacher how long each student spent working on an assignment, what resources they used, what google searches they conducted and illuminate an online learning experience that the teacher had previously been blind to. This data proved to be very impactful to the teachers and each of them noted several instructional design changes that they will make as a result.
The dissertation research showed that targeted data about student online learning had value but the problem was that manual methods for sifting and sorting the data were not practical or scalable for continued use. To solve this problem, Greg and Doug teamed up with Karl Pietrzak, a software engineer. They formed Learnics which developed a Google Chrome extension called ThinkingApp that allows students to record and submit their own learning data. This puts the ownership of learning data back in the hands of the learner.
In 2018, two new doctoral students used the alpha version of the ThinkingApp in two separate public school settings to conduct research for their dissertation. During this time research was conducted with the ThinkingApp at a large New Jersey High School. Additionally a Learnics User Group has been established and meets on a monthly bases with representative for several area schools.