The ethics of learning analytics: how not to be like Facebook

Facebook the use of learning analytics data isn’t – yet. But experts are onto the emerging issues 

 discussion paper for the University of Melbourne’s Centre for the Study of Higher Education explores the existing environment and emerging issues in the ethical management of study data. Linda Corrin (Swinburne U) and eight colleagues consider, “the ethics of how and why data is collected and used.”

“While the ethical use of student data for research purposes is well covered in established institutional research ethics guidelines, protocols and processes, the ethical implications of the use of data and analytics in the day-to-day practices of educational institutions are less clear,” they write.

They outline areas where data analytics are used, set out the ethical issues engaged, demonstrate how institutions address them and present issues to address now, including:

* “clear principles and guidelines” on data use in learning and teaching

* “community-based” conversations, including, staff and students on the ethics of data analysis

* share existing principles and projects so institutions do not start from scratch

* pick up the pace; “The Cambridge Analytica scandal (among others), the regular news reports of data breaches … are yet more reminders that, aside from everything else, the ethical use of students’ and other data is a legal issue for universities. There is a need for action in order to prevent this area becoming a significant legal risk for institutions.”

Overall the proposals focus on taking the arcane out of teaching and learning analytics, “advanced educational technologies that employ complex learning analytics and AI should not regarded as ‘black box’ tools to be trusted but should be transparent and able to be challenged.”

All good, but surely manufacturers marketers and commercial users of data need to accept the same principles as colleges and universities.



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