Friday, 16 July 2010

Google Analytics and learning/teaching potential

What else can Google Analytics tell me about the potential of my resources on Cloudworks as teaching materials? Well, I’d expect my Cloudscapes, which are essentially index pages, to lead people to the associated clouds (content pages).

I’ll focus here on Research Skills required by PhD Students. I created this back in February – and it involved a fairly straight transfer of Web materials to Web 2.0. Pretty much all of this material was already available on the Open University Intranet, I moved it over to Cloudworks, sorted out the dead links, added some new links and it’s now open for people to add to, comment on and discuss.

The original, Intranet, version of the web page didn’t work too well.The page stats over a 14-month period showed that people were following the links based on where they fell on the page. Links at the top left did very well, followed by the first link after each heading. Links on the bottom right were only followed once or twice a month. This looks like a classic browsing pattern – people arrive, click around to see what is on offer, but don’t make any serious use of the page or its linked resources.

When the material was added to Cloudworks, the pattern of usage became more even. The previously dominant A1: Recognising research problems was replaced by B2: Compliance with ethical requirements which, more recently, has been overtaken by B6: Justifying research methods. I like to think that that reflects seasonal variation in the concerns of PhD students at the OU (the target audience for the clouds and for the original site) but that’s currently just a guess.

If the Cloudscape is doing its job as a learning/teaching resource I’d expect to see a low level of bounces from that page, a high level of people moving through to the linked clouds, people moving through to the pages related to their original search terms, and those people who do move on to linked clouds spending at least a few minutes on the site.

I seem to have a fair-sized readership – 848 page views since February. Two-thirds of those arriving on the page are bouncing directly off the site but those arrive from elsewhere on the site don't tend to leave when they get to my cloudscape. I’m glad to see that they are following the links, and that those who stay on the site move to linked pages.

The unique visitors who landed directly on the page spent nearly 8 hours there in total, which averages out at around four minutes each. What’s more, people with relevant, detailed searches seem to be spending time on the site.

According to my original hypothesis, Google Analytics is showing this to be a page that looks likely to be supporting teaching and learning. People want to find out more about skills required for research, this page provides links to relevant material, they follow these links and spend some time looking at them.

All good news? Not entirely. In my next post I’ll look at some of the things that are going wrong, and the analytics that help to identify these.

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