The Learning Management System (LMS) has emerged as one of the preferred information and communication technology solutions by which the higher education sector seeks to manage and support the learning experience that it provides to its students. It has also become an increasingly valuable tool which has the ability to record and capture data about users, unlocking the unprecedented potential of data captured for informed decision making and evidence- based strategies.
Present literature illustrates a growing interest and increased use of analytics within the LMS to support and enhance the quality of learning and teaching; however, much of the focus has been on student learning and engagement. While educators can greatly benefit from data on learners, there is also a potential value in exploring and understanding the usage and engagement from the teaching staff perspective, as they are the key technological interfaces in the education institutions (Noeth & Volkov, 2004) who provide access to virtual learning content and support to students as part of the enhanced overall student learning experience.
In 2008, the Learning Management System (LMS) Usage Framework was conceived by Griffith University and the University of Western Sydney as a joint initiative to undertake a benchmarking exercise to measure the level of uptake of the LMS and the associated tools at both universities This project and its outcomes were reported at ASCILITE 2009; Benchmarking across universities: A framework for LMS analysis (Rankine, Stevenson, Malfroy, Ashford-Rowe). This framework was a dynamic process model designed to define, describe and measure elements common to the online courses at given points in time, which enabled the selection of data according to specified criteria. Its principal elements were Content, Communication, Collaboration, Assessment, and Explicit Learner Support. Each element was then further broken into subcategories with respect to the use of particular online tools and educational content.
Since 2008, and in collaboration with Educational Designers embedded within the academic community known at Griffith as Blended Learning Advisors, the framework that was developed in 2008 has undergone an evolutionary transformation to better fit and reflect the current Griffith learning and teaching context. However, its principal pedagogical delivery elements remain as Content, Communication, Collaboration, Assessment, and Explicit Learner Support, noting that each element is further broken into subcategories, which contain data on the use of particular online tools and educational content.
In 2011/12 Griffith University initiated a further project, based upon this work, the purpose of which was to measure the level of academic uptake of the LMS. The revised LMS Usage Framework was adopted to develop algorithms capturing the relevant LMS data. This quantitative data was then analysed to measure the level of academic uptake and usage of the tools within the LMS. The data was structured to enable analysis at a range of academic grouping levels (Faculty/Department/School etc.) as well as to illustrate the overall performance of the respective academic element in terms of uptake and usage of technology tools in education delivery.
This data extracted provided new and useful insights on the LMS tools usage patterns. This particularly activity was conducted as an exploratory study aimed at building on the previous work in this area, as noted above. However, it also unearthed new possibilities in the gathering and analysis of the LMS data to assist academic teachers, their managers and those administrators tasked with supporting academic professional development, in particular where it relates to evaluating the effectiveness of technological applications and strategies implemented to support an enhanced student learning experience and achievement.