Programming the platform university: learning analytics and predictive infrastructures in higher education

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Abstract

This article offers a case study of how platforms and predictive infrastructures are emerging in higher education. It examines a Learning Analytics Application Programming Interface (API) from a popular Learning Management System. The API is treated firstly as an artefact based on the computational abstraction of educational principles, and secondly as an empirical entry point to investigate the emergence of a Learning Analytics infrastructure in a large Australian university. Through in-depth ethnographic interviews and the interpretative analysis of software development workflows, the paper describes an API-mediated platformisation process involving a range of actors and systems: computational experts, algorithms, data-savvy administrative staff and large corporate actors inserting themselves through back-ends and various other dependencies. In the conclusion, the article argues that the platformisation of higher education is part of a broader project that mobilises programmability and computation to re-engineer educational institutions in the interest of efficiency and prediction. However, the social-scientific study of this project cannot ignore the practical and compromised dimension where human actors and technical systems interact and, in the process, generate meaning.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalResearch in Education
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020

Keywords

  • Application Programming Interfaces
  • higher education
  • infrastructure studies
  • Platforms
  • software studies

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