Tech Report

Learning Analytics for Epistemic Commitments in a Collaborative Information Seeking Environment

This report argues that information seeking – the searching, frequently conducted on search engines such as Google, in order to retrieve information for some needs – should be of interest to education. It further suggests that such interest should focus on information commitments, which are implicated in the ways that people find, and process, information. Building on literature researching collaboration in both education and information seeking research, I claim that Collaborative Information Seeking (CIS) is a good lens through which to research information commitments. Indeed, a key component of this report is a preliminary proposal for a new theory of epistemic commitments, which addresses some concerns with prior research on epistemic beliefs, epistemic cognition, and epistemic (or information) commitments. Two novel components of that new theory are a focus on information trace as the core of epistemic activity, and a focus on the ‘dialogic space’ as particularly epistemically relevant. The report goes on to propose a technological solution for the analysis of epistemic commitments in the form of a Computer Supported Collaborative Learning/Work (CSCL/W) environment. This proposal includes an analysis of trace for epistemic commitments, and a discussion of relevant discourse centric learning analytics for the analysis of chat data around epistemic activity. While discourse data has received some analysis in CIS research, the analysis has generally been somewhat shallow in its focus; the proposal made in this report is for a deeper analysis, both as an extension of CIS research, and as of interest to learning analytics (and indeed learning researchers generally) who are interested in the collaborative context of learning. The report is thus proposes a relevant research theory to investigate the ways in which people make commitments in online information seeking environments, and how they might be supported.

The report comprises three sections:

1. I start with a literature review, which begins with an overview of some relevant theoretical, and philosophical, literature relating this particularly to learning analytics (section 2). I then introduce the relevant literature on information seeking and epistemic cognition (or, as I propose, commitments) (sections 3-8). Section 9 then introduces some relevant literature on tasks to probe epistemic commitments, while section 10 introduces some core software to do so.

2. Section 11 then discusses my preliminary practical work, with respect to pilot empirical work and some key skills gained

3. Section 12 then introduces my formal research proposal – including research questions, proposed tools, and practical experiments to be conducted.


First year upgrade report

ID: kmi-13-04

Date: 2013

Author(s): Simon Knight

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Senior Research Fellow

Knowledge Media Institute (KMi)
£49,772 to £55,998
Based in Milton Keynes
Permanent position

The post is intended to strengthen the Open University’s Knowledge Media Institute (KMi) international research reputation and in particular we are interested in candidates who can pursue a robust and innovative research agenda in one or more of these strategic research areas:

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