Rethinking learning analytics adoption through complexity leadership theory

Shane Dawson, Oleksandra Poquet, Cassandra Colvin, Tim Rogers, Abelardo Pardo, Dragan Gasevic

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Despite strong interest in learning analytics (LA), adoption at a large-scale organizational level continues to be problematic. This May in part be due to the lack of acknowledgement of existing conceptual LA models to operationalize how key adoption dimensions interact to inform the realities of the implementation process. This paper proposes the framing of LA adoption in complexity leadership theory (CLT) to study the overarching system dynamics. The framing is empirically validated in a study analysing interviews with senior staff in Australian universities (n=32). The results were coded for several adoption dimensions including leadership, governance, staff development, and culture. The coded data were then analysed with latent class analysis. The results identified two classes of universities that either i) followed an instrumental approach to adoption - typically top-down leadership, large scale project with high technology focus yet demonstrating limited staff uptake; or ii) were characterized as emergent innovators –bottom up, strong consultation process, but with subsequent challenges in communicating and scaling up innovations. The results suggest there is a need to broaden the focus of research in LA adoption models to move on from small-scale course/program levels to a more holistic and complex organizational level.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 8th International Conference on Learning Analytics & Knowledge (LAK'18)
Subtitle of host publicationTowards User-Centred Learning Analytics
EditorsSimon Buckingham Shum, Rebecca Ferguson, Agathe Merceron, Xavier Ochoa
Place of PublicationNew York NY USA
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages9
ISBN (Print)9781450364003
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2018
EventInternational Learning Analytics & Knowledge Conference 2018 - SMC Conference & Function Centre, Sydney, Australia
Duration: 5 Mar 20189 Mar 2018
Conference number: 8th (Conference website) (Proceedings)


ConferenceInternational Learning Analytics & Knowledge Conference 2018
Abbreviated titleLAK 2018
Internet address


  • Complexity
  • Leadership
  • Learning analytics adoption

Cite this