Gamification is heads and learning analytics is tails

This morning I was reading a research article about learning analytics and while it wasn't talking about them in relation to gamification it reminded me of some conversations I have had with people about the connection between learning analytics and gamification. Both concepts have received a good deal of attention in the learning community for a number of years now. And, in my opinion, neither concepts has yet to reach its full potential.

So what's the connection between the two?

They can really be two sides of the same coin. Heads or the front, user-facing side is where you find the gamification. A gamified learning experience gives you a design that really focuses on the learners and how to best get them from point A to point B while giving them lots of feedback along the way.

Tails is the back-end which, particularly if you are using a digital system, likely means a treasure trove of data that can be collected and used to provide feedback, not only the learners but to the designer and instructors. But, sadly, that doesn't always happen.

The key section of the article that triggered my thoughts was a list of three areas it suggested that learning analytics designers need to consider:
  1. Make sure that the information that is collected is useful to the teachers;
  2. Think about how and what intervals to collect information; and
  3. Build a system that enables teachers to make the data actionable.
To paraphrase Jurassic Park, just because we can collect a ton of data, doesn't mean we should just scoop up everything we can. And whatever we do collect should provide clear feedback to the learners and the instructors. Otherwise, we may as well just have them flip a coin to make decisions.