Microgenetic Learning Analytics Methods: Hands-on Sequence Analysis Workshop Report


  • Ani Aghababyan
  • Taylor Martin O'Reilly Media
  • Phillip Janisiewicz Agile Dynamics
  • Kevin Close Utah State University




Microgenetic analysis, R, RStudio, learning analytics, data mining, hierarchical clustering, sequential pattern mining


Learning analytics is an emerging discipline and, as such, it benefits from new tools and methodological approaches.  This work reviews and summarizes our workshop on microgenetic data analysis techniques using R, held at the 2nd annual Learning Analytics Summer Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts on June 30th, 2014. Specifically, this paper introduces educational researchers to our experience using data analysis techniques with the RStudio development environment to analyze temporal records of 52 elementary students’ affective and behavioral responses to a digital learning environment. In the RStudio development environment, we used methods such as hierarchical clustering and sequential pattern mining. We also used RStudio to create effective data visualizations of our complex data. The scope of the workshop, and this paper, assumes little prior knowledge of the R programming language, and thus covers everything from data import and cleanup to advanced microgenetic analysis techniques. Additionally, readers will be introduced to software setup, R data types, and visualizations. This paper not only adds to the toolbox for learning analytics researchers (particularly when analyzing time series data), but also shares our experience interpreting a unique and complex dataset.

Author Biographies

Taylor Martin, O'Reilly Media

Taylor Martin - It is a common belief that doing promotes learning in complex domains like mathematics and science, but there is little research that establishes the validity of this claim. Dr. Martin examines how people learn from doing, or active participation, both physical and social. Currently, is examining how mobile and social learning environments (online and in person) influence content learning in mathematics, engineering and computational thinking using learning analytics methods to understand learning processes at a fine-grained level. Dr. Martin is Director of the Active Learning Lab at Utah State University. She is currently serving as a Program Director on rotation at the National Science Foundation. There she works on several programs and focuses on a variety of efforts across the foundation to understand how Big Data is impacting research in Education and across the STEM disciplines.

Phillip Janisiewicz, Agile Dynamics

Phillip Janisiewicz is a Data Scientist for the Active Learning Lab in the Department of Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences at Utah State University conducting research in data management and data modeling. Phil works as part of the Active Learning Lab Research and Development team to investigate and implement new models and techniques for predicting student learning and behavior and inferring the relevance and impact of recommendations and personalized content, using a rich corpus of student data. This is a strategic role where he is responsible for identifying new analysis methods and pursuing the execution of projects with a high level of autonomy. Phil has been involved in designing and developing databases, web-based applications, analysis methods, and data visualization techniques. Some of his projects have included data collection across multiple states and by multiple research organizations. He has designed and implemented security and quality assurance measures to meet the highest regulations for data management.

Kevin Close, Utah State University

Kevin Close is a Ph.D. student in instructional design and learning sciences at Utah State University. Before coming to Utah State, he received his BA in religion from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota and spent five years teaching English, Math, American History, and Chinese Language. His research interests include using data mining techniques to improve K-12 classroom environments by improving stealth assessment techniques.


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How to Cite

Aghababyan, A., Martin, T., Janisiewicz, P., & Close, K. (2016). Microgenetic Learning Analytics Methods: Hands-on Sequence Analysis Workshop Report. Journal of Learning Analytics, 3(3), 96-114. https://doi.org/10.18608/jla.2016.33.6



Special section: Tutorials in learning analytics (LASI and LAK 2014)