More sense from audit trials: eploratory sequential data analysis

T. Judd and G. E. Kennedy. More sense from audit trials: eploratory sequential data analysis. In R. Atkinsons, C. McBeath, D. Jonas-Dwyer, and R. Phillips, editors, Beyond the comfort zone: Proceedings of the 21st ASCILITE Conference, pages 476–484, Perth, Australia, December, 5-8 2004. [pdf]


This paper introduces the use of exploratory sequential data analysis (ESDA) to detect, quantify and correlate patterns within audit trail data. We describe four sequence analysis techniques and use them to analyse data from 34 students’ attempts at an interactive drag and drop task. Using a model sequence of events based on the task’s underlying educational design as reference, we employed these techniques to: (i) calculate an ‘average’ sequence of events based on individual user sequences, (ii) characterise individual sequences in terms of their similarity to the design model, (iii) identify common partial sequences within individual sequences, and (iv).

characterise transitions between two disparate actions within the task. We then used the results of these analyses to explore why most students failed to complete all components of the task.

We suggest that it was not because the task was too long or that it lacked challenge but that students intentionally and selectively ignored certain non-key steps in the task. It is our contention that ESDA techniques, in conjunction with judiciously collected audit trail data, represent a powerful and compelling tool for educational designers and researchers.

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