Mining User Activity Data In Higher Education Open Systems: Trends, Challenges, and Possibilities

Mining User Activity Data In Higher Education Open Systems: Trends, Challenges, and Possibilities

Owen G. McGrath (University of California at Berkeley, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-400-2.ch032
OnDemand PDF Download:


Higher education IT project managers have always relied on user activity data as logged in one form or another. Summarized counts of users and performance trends serve as essential sources of information for those who need to analyze problems, monitor security, improve software, perform capacity planning, etc. With the reach of the Internet extending into all aspects of higher education research and teaching, however, new questions have arisen as to how, where, and when user activity gets captured and analyzed. Tracking and understanding remote users and their round-the-clock activities is a major technical and analytical challenge within today’s cyber-infrastructure. As open content publishing and open source development projects thrive in higher education there are some side effects on usage analysis. This chapter examines how data mining solutions – particularly Web usage mining methods– are being taken up in three open systems project management contexts: digital libraries, online museums, and course management systems. In describing the issues and challenges that motivate data mining applications in these three contexts, the chapter provides an overview of how data mining integrates within project management processes. The chapter also touches on ways in which data mining can be augmented by the complementary practice of data visualization.
Chapter Preview


For decades, automatically generated logs have been a vital source of information within academic computing. From timeshare minicomputers to lab-based workstations, logs have provided data at the heart of acquisition, recharge, licensing, security, usability, and capacity planning processes. In the Internet era, Web log data becomes an even more essential and often sole source of information for all of these same reasons together with the added urgency of supporting round-the-clock, remote access. Tracking users’ interactions with digital library content, online museum collections, or e-learning material is crucial. Tools for making sense of usage within these systems depend heavily on the underlying Web technology. The monitoring features available to administrators of these systems rely heavily on Web application server logs as a record of the visitor’s access. Further complicating the usage analysis problem is the trend within higher education towards open content, open source application frameworks, distance learning and a more general embrace of open online research collaboration (Lynch, 2007). Academic institutions are also increasingly involved in collaborative efforts to develop open source alternatives to commercial applications such as repositories, portals, and collaboration environments (Olsen, 2003). This shift in the locus of software development away from commercial companies and into loosely organized consortia of higher education institutions, however, ends up with noticeably different processes and results.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Open Content: Open content usually refers to research or educational material that can be distributed and re-used freely. The types of content can range from previously published books and articles to educational software simulations and lesson plans. Key concerns for those who provide or use open content include ensuring that the material can be easily adapted, integrated, and reconfigured in new online settings.

Open Systems: Many computing devices that people encounter and use nowadays are not isolated. Especially in the Web era, the computing involves systems of software applications, databases, personal computers, servers, etc. all working together. The openness of such system refers in part to their accessibility by users throughout the world, but also to the ease in which the underlying system components are brought together. Rather than try to design entire systems from the top down, it has proven very powerful to design potential system components so that they can share and understand universal protocols and common services – allowing them to be combined in new and unanticipated ways later on.

Web Usage Mining: As a sub-field of data mining, Web usage mining focuses specifically on finding patterns relating to users of a Web based system: who they are, what they tend to do, etc. In contrast, other types of Web data mining (e.g., Web text mining) might focus on finding patterns in the content itself. Web usage mining relies on data captured behind the scene in server logs and databases.

Data Mining: In common parlance, data mining often refers generally to the idea of probing deeply into some mountain of data. This informal use of the term usually says little about the techniques used to do the probing. In contrast, the more formal use of the term refers specifically to using computational techniques to uncover patterns in huge data sets. Here the techniques range widely from statistics to artificial intelligence. The range of data mining investigations is also varied and ever increasing, but some of the better-known approaches include clustering, classification, and affinity analysis.

Clustering Analysis: Clustering analysis is another common kind of data mining investigation. Often performed as part of an initial exploration of data, the goal is to see what natural groupings if any exist, i.e., what items in the data are alike. In the context of Web usage, a clustering analysis might reveal that the site’s users fall into two distinct groupings: those who use the site’s menu and those who go directly to specific pages within the site.

Data Warehouse: A data warehouse is typically a second home for data. In large corporate or institutional settings, data deemed important for reporting purposes is copied out of various production systems and brought together in the data warehouse where is can be preserved and analyzed. In a university setting, a student data warehouse might contain historical data gathered from a variety of systems (admissions, housing, advising, degree audit, etc.).

Affinity Analysis: Affinity analysis is one kind of data mining investigation. In this approach, the goal is to see what association rules if any exist, i.e., what actions co-occur. In the context of Web usage, an affinity analysis might yield a rule such as ‘if page A is visited, then page D is visited’ which might indicate a previously unknown navigational path popular among users. Affinity analysis is also sometime referred to as market basket analysis, as it can provide retailers with information about products that consumers purchase together.

Open Source: Open source is a term used generally for software created by the programmers who allow then allow the source code to be distributed freely. This form of distribution encourages other programmers to take up, modify, and contribute back improvements to the software. There are many variations on the openness involved in open source. In some cases, the code can be re-used in any way. In other cases, use of the code brings with it a requirement that any new system of which it becomes a part will, in turn, become open to all. Due to the aggregate nature of contributions, the major challenges for open source software product development involve organizational coordination and oversight. The community source process brings to open source a model of governance via an institutional consortium.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Robert K. Hiltbrand
Terry T. Kidd
Terry T. Kidd
Chapter 1
James W. Price Jr., Pamila Dembla
As exploratory research, the chapter’s aim is to assess if Sun-Tzu’s application of Taoist principles are applicable to the problem domain of... Sample PDF
The Tao To Understanding Enterprise It Project Complexity: Sun-Tzu's Five Factors Revisited
Chapter 2
A. J. Gilbert Silvius
This chapter describes a study into the expected development of the competences of the project manager in the year 2027. The study was performed... Sample PDF
Project Management 2027: The Future of Project Management
Chapter 3
Gregory J. Skulmoski, Francis T. Hartman
The purpose of this research was to investigate the soft competencies by project phase that IT project managers, hybrid and technical team members... Sample PDF
The Progression Towards Project Management Competence
Chapter 4
Ralf Müller
This chapter addresses project managers’ leadership styles, mainly from the perspective of technology projects. It starts by defining and outlining... Sample PDF
Leadership in Technology Project Management
Chapter 5
Melanie S. Karas, Mahesh S. Raisinghani, Kerry S. Webb
A project manager’s role on any project goes far beyond task-related deliverables. Although the project manager must be able to effectively manage... Sample PDF
The Importance of Leadership in Project Management
Chapter 6
Jaby Mohammed
This chapter introduces the concept of technology management by objectives. Technology is one of the fastest moving elements in the 21st Century... Sample PDF
Technology Management by Objectives (TMO)
Chapter 7
Gary Pan
The goal of any product is to be used. In a very real sense, people judge the success or failure of any product by the extent to which it is used by... Sample PDF
Examining Stakeholders' Roles in Influencing IT Project Cancellation Decisions
Chapter 8
Daniel W. Surry
This chapter will discuss more than 20 system development life cycles (SDLC) found in the Information Technology project management arena, whereby... Sample PDF
Bringing the User into the Project Development Process
Chapter 9
Evon M. O. Abu-Taieh, Asim A. El Sheikh, Jeihan M. Abu-Tayeh, Maha T. El-Mahied
This chapter uses the Diffusion of Innovations (DOI) theory and examines a business case, highlighting certain gaps in the theory. First, confusion... Sample PDF
Information Technology Projects System Development Life Cycles: Comparative Study
Chapter 10
Francisco Chia Cua, Tony C. Garrett
This chapter introduces the Firm-Level Value Creation Model as a means of planning Information Systems projects based on their potential for... Sample PDF
Analyzing Diffusion and Value Creation Dimensions of a Business Case of Replacing Enterprise Systems
Chapter 11
Otavio Prospero Sanchez, Alberto Luiz Albertin
In this chapter the authors investigate the management of service innovation projects; can ICT based service innovation be facilitated by... Sample PDF
IT Project Planning based on Business Value Generation
Chapter 12
Bendik Bygstad, Gjermund Lanestedt
This chapter provides a framework for technology project implementation in systems where the human is an integral element of the completed project.... Sample PDF
Managing ICT Based Service Innovation
Chapter 13
Katy E. Ellis
Project management is a carefully planned, organized effort to manage the resources in order to successfully accomplish specific project goals and... Sample PDF
Employee Preparation, Participation, and Performance
Chapter 14
Jaby Mohammed, Ali Alavizadeh
This chapter provides a fundamental yet comprehensive coverage of quality management. Bringing managers and engineers the most up-to-date quality... Sample PDF
Quality Assurance in Project Management
Chapter 15
Sohail Anwar
Project management is a carefully planned, organized effort to manage the resources in order to successfully accomplish specific project goals and... Sample PDF
Quality Management and Control
Chapter 16
Dawn M. Owens, Deepak Khazanchi
Successful implementation of IT (information technology) projects is a critical strategic and competitive necessity for firms in all industrial... Sample PDF
Software Quality Assurance
Chapter 17
Fayez Ahmad Albadri
An overwhelming number of Information Technology (IT) projects experience persistent problems and failures. This chapter reflects on some of the... Sample PDF
IPRM: The Integrated Project Risk Model
Chapter 18
Technical Risk Management  (pages 283-294)
Pete Hylton
In today’s highly competitive industrial environment, many high-tech businesses are using Technical Risk Management (TRM) in their engineering... Sample PDF
Technical Risk Management
Chapter 19
Lauren Fancher
IT projects across all sectors are relying on more iterative methodologies that can employ early and frequent assessment and evaluation processes in... Sample PDF
Early, Often, and Repeat: Assessment and Evaluation Methodology for Ensuring Stakeholder Satisfaction with Information Technology Projects
Chapter 20
Chad J. Cray
Considering the high failure rate of information technology (IT) projects over the last 40 years, project managers should use all the tools at their... Sample PDF
A Needle in a Haystack: Choosing the Right Development Methodology for IT Projects
Chapter 21
Mysore Narayanan
In this chapter, the author describes how one can implement and incorporate creative techniques to design, develop, document and disseminate a... Sample PDF
Project Management Assessment Methods
Chapter 22
Mario Vanhoucke
It is well-known that well managed and controlled projects are more likely to be delivered on time and within budget. The construction of a... Sample PDF
Static and Dynamic Determinants of Earned Value Based Time Forecast Accuracy
Chapter 23
Michele De Lorenzi
This chapter presents a technology exploration process designed to support service innovation for information and communication technologies in a... Sample PDF
Technology Exploration Process: From Technology to New Services
Chapter 24
Henryk R. Marcinkiewicz
Three models structure the planning for technology integration into instruction. Institutional needs are assessed for three dimensions suggested in... Sample PDF
Planning for Integrating Technology
Chapter 25
Michael Crow
Kansas State University has ensured greatly increased academic involvement in the implementation of its new student information system through the... Sample PDF
University Task Force Deepens Academic Involvement in ERP System
Chapter 26
Joni A. Amorim, Carlos Machado, Rosana G.S. Miskulin, Mauro S. Miskulin
The production of quality educational multimedia content involves both its publication and its use, considering aspects ranging from metadata... Sample PDF
Production, Publication, and Use of Educational Multimedia Content in Brazil: Challenges and Opportunities in Real World Technology Projects
Chapter 27
Hasan Tinmaz
Technology planning is an indispensable activity for all higher education institutions nowadays. The major purpose of the technology planning is to... Sample PDF
Instructional Technology Plans for Higher Education Institutions
Chapter 28
Patricia McGee, Veronica Diaz
The rapid proliferation of e-learning tools that offer low or no cost investment and are not housed on institutional servers, has made it very... Sample PDF
Shifting from Classroom to Online Delivery
Chapter 29
Bimal P. Nepal, Leslie Monplaisir
Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in automotive industry are faced with the conflicting goals of creating vehicles with higher reliability... Sample PDF
Lean and Global Product Development in Auto Industry
Chapter 30
Debra D. Orosbullard
The business world is running at a faster pace than ever before. Globalization has partnered the world and new ways of doing business to meet... Sample PDF
Future Trends: Global Projects & Virtual Teaming
Chapter 31
Geoffrey Corb, Stephen Hellen
Social networking technologies—such as Wikis, blogs and instant messaging—are increasingly being employed in business settings to support... Sample PDF
Wiki-enabled Technology Management
Chapter 32
Owen G. McGrath
Higher education IT project managers have always relied on user activity data as logged in one form or another. Summarized counts of users and... Sample PDF
Mining User Activity Data In Higher Education Open Systems: Trends, Challenges, and Possibilities
About the Contributors