Web Analytics: A new plugin for Moodle

by Donna Benjamin and Dmitrii Metelkin

Catalyst recently contributed a new web analytics plugin to the Moodle plugins directory.  

Our new plugin is the next step in an evolution of maturity in the collection, measurement and analysis of web traffic on Moodle sites. It builds on the success of the local analytics plugin that precedes it.

Web Analytics for Moodle

So, what is Web Analytics?

“Web analytics is the collection, reporting, and analysis of website data.”
US government

“Analytics platforms measure activity and behaviour on a website, for example: how many users visit, how long they stay, how many pages they visit, which pages they visit, and whether they arrive by following a link or not.”
Optimizely

“Web Analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of Internet data for the purposes of understanding and optimizing Web usage.”
US Digital Analytics Association 

When you're talking about tracking this kind of data in relation to a learning management system, its important to recognise the difference between web analytics, and learning analytics.

Learning analytics takes the data collection and measurement processes from web analytics, and tries to harness it in service of a scientific approach to improving learning outcomes.  So getting good web analytics data, is fundamental to the development of useful insights about your learning management system.

Both web and usage analytics tools track and report on aggregate traffic to websites, or the interaction behaviour patterns of visitors to the site, including details of the web browser, operating system and size of the device they’re using to do so. Web analytics usually refers to traffic from anonymous visitors to a site, which means specific user behaviour generally can’t be tracked.

Learning analytics needs to track individual user behaviour, and uses aggregate data to help put an individual’s progress in perspective, or attempt to make predictions that might support their ongoing learning. New learning analytics features in Moodle core are making this kind of meaningful data analysis much more accessible to site owners and teachers.

Will Hoyt, from Yet Analytics says

“Each of these types of analytics is designed to answer a specific set of questions for particular stakeholders. Web analytics give marketers and site managers insight into high level web traffic patterns. Usage analytics give software developers and platform managers insight into application usage patterns. Learning analytics give learning and talent professionals insights into learning engagement and performance across the learning ecosystems they manage.”

The right tool for the job

Many of the tools needed to support good analytics practice require site owners to insert a snippet of javascript code into their site in order to track and collect web traffic, and follow visitor behavior. Our new plugin makes it easy for Moodle site administrators to put the right details, in the right place, without having to mess with the back end theme or the code.

Google’s analytics tools are arguably the most popular, and well known instruments in this space, so naturally our web analytics plugin has support for these tools. This plugin means there’s now no limit to the number of analytics tools you can add to your Moodle site. It’s also possible to send the UserID to your analytics platform to fine tune and target improvements based on real user behaviour.

Here at Catalyst, we’re big fans of the Matomo open source analytics platform formerly known as Piwik. So one of the features of the new plugin enhances this integration to improve performance and resilience.

Perhaps most importantly, the new Web Analytics Moodle plugin can easily be extended to support new analytics frameworks with the creation of sub-plugins.

Are you using web analytics?

Get in touch if you need a check-up, or assistance in getting our new Moodle plugin working for you!

You can find more information in the Moodle plugin directory: https://moodle.org/plugins/tool_webanalytics