Reading Game Analytics: Maximizing the Value of Player Data earlier this morning (which I suggest might be a handy read if you’re embarking on a learning analytics project…) I was struck by the mention of “player dossiers”. A Game Studies article from 2011 by Ben Medler- Player Dossiers: Analyzing Gameplay Data as a Reward describes them as follows:
Recording player gameplay data has become a prevalent feature in many games and platform systems. Players are now able to track their achievements, analyze their past gameplay behaviour and share their data with their gaming friends. A common system that gives players these abilities is known as a player dossier, a data-driven reporting tool comprised of a player’s gameplay data. Player dossiers presents a player’s past gameplay by using statistical and visualization methods while offering ways for players to connect to one another using online social networking features.
Which is to say – you can grab your own performance and achievement data and then play with it, maybe in part to help you game the game.
The Game Analytics book also mentioned the availability of third party services built on top of game APIs that let third parties build analytics tools for users that are not otherwise supported by the game publishers.
What I started to wonder was – are there any services out there that allow you aggregate dossier material from different games to provide a more rounded picture of your performance as a gamer, or maybe services that homologate dossiers from different games to give overall rankings?
In the learning analytics space, this might correspond to getting your data back from a MOOC provider, for example, and giving it to a third party to analyse. As a user of MOOC platform, I doubt that you’ll be allowed to see much of the raw data that’s being collected about you; I’m also wary that institutions that sign up to MOOC platforms will also get screwed by the platform providers when it comes to asking for copies of the data. (I suggest folk signing their institutions up to MOOC platforms talk to their library colleagues, and ask how easy it is for them to get data, (metadata, transaction data, usage data etc etc) out of the library system vendors, and what sort of contracts got them into the mess they may admit to being in.)
(By the by, again the Game Analytics book made a useful distinction – that of viewing folk as customers, (i.e. people you can eventually get money from), or as players of the game (or maybe in MOOC land, learners). Whilst you may think of yourself as a player (learner), what they really want to do is develop you as a customer. In this respect, I think one of the great benefits of the arrival of MOOCs is that it allows us to see just how we can “monetise” education and let’s us talk freely and, erm, openly, in cold hard terms about the revenue potential of these things, and how they can be used as part of a money making/sales venture, without having to pretend to talk about educational benefits, which we’d probably feel obliged to do if we were talking about universities. Just like game publishers create product (games) to make money, MOOCspace is about businesses making money from education. (If it isn’t, why is venture capital interested?))
Anyway, all that’s all by the by, not just the by the by bit: this was just supposed to be a quick post, rather than a rant, about how we might do a little bit to open up part of the learning analytics data collection process to the community. (The technique generalises to other sectors…) The idea is built on appropriating a technology that many website publishers use to collect data, the third party service that is Google Analytics (eg from 2012, 88% of Universities UK members use Google Analytics on their public websites). I’m not sure how many universities use Google Analytics to track VLE activity though? Or how many MOOC operators use Google Analytics to track activity on course related pages? But if there are some, I think we can grab that data and pop it into a communal data pool; or grab that data into our own Google Account.
So how might we do that?
That’s all a rather roundabout way of saying we can quite easily write extensions that change the behaviour of a web page. (Hmm… can we do this for mobile devices?) So what I propose – though I don’t have time to try it and test it right now (the rant used up the spare time I had!) – is an extension that simply replaces the Google Analytics tracking code with another tracking code:
– either a “common” one, that pools data from multiple individuals into the same Google Analytics account;
– or a “personal” one, that lets you collect all the data that the course provider was using Google Analytics to collect about you.
(Ideally the rewrite would take place before the tracking script is loaded? Or we’d have to reload the script with the new code if the rewrite happens too late? I’m not sure how the injection/replacement of the original tracking code with the new one actual takes place when the extension loads?)
Another “advantage” of this approach is that you hijack the Google Analytics data so it doesn’t get sent to the account of the person whose site you’re visiting. (Google Analytics docs suggest that using multiple tracking codes is “not supported”, though this doesn’t mean it can’t be done if you wanted to just overload the data collection (i.e. let the publisher collect the data to their account, and you just grab a copy of it too…).
(An alternative, cruder, approach might be to create an extension that purges Google Analytics code within a page, and then inject your own Google Analytics scripts/code. This would have the downside of not incorporating the instrumentation that the original page publisher added to the page. Hmm.. seems I looked at this way back when too… Collecting Third Party Website Statistics (like Yahoo’s) with Google Analytics.)
All good fun, eh? And for folk operating cMOOCs, maybe this represents a way of tracking user activity across multiple sites (though to mollify ethical considerations, tracking/analytics code should probably only be injected onto whitelisted course related domains, or users presented with a “track my activity on this site” button…?)
6 thoughts on “MOOC Busting: Personal Googalytics…”
Re multiple game rankings. I don’t know about computer / video games, but many online board game sites have meta-game ranking systems. These have more or less sophisticated algorithms to take into account the number of players, how many games of that type you’ve played, relative rankings of different players, and such like. For info: http://www.brettspielwelt.de, http://www.yucata.de. These tend to present personal rankings in individual games, plus overall rankings, often with levels dependent on the different games you’ve won and the number of opponents you’ve beaten. This gives progression up levels within the gaming website’s community, as well as ‘how good you are’ at particular games.
Coursera tracks individual profiles – well it adds a user ID as an event to the google tracking. What it tracks per user I don’t know.
Am not sure what you gain by doing it, the gaming analytics works – as you’re learning from mistakes – but how many courses would I need to do to generate my own data? Courses too distinct?
Interesting take on the ‘quantified self’.
With perfect timing “GameAnalytics makes its game analytics platform free for all developers” http://thenextweb.com/insider/2013/08/28/gameanalytics-makes-its-game-analytics-platform-free-for-all-developers/
“With its platform, you can monitor how players [learners] move through a game, what items [resources] they buy [study] and so on. You can also see where users drop off and how long they stick with the game [course], where they experience problems and how much time they spend in certain areas.”
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