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Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in STEM
Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in STEM

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5.3 Ethics of using learning analytics in SoTL

While the field of learning analytics offers numerous possibilities to improve student support, teaching practice, curriculum and learning design, there are ethical and data privacy considerations for using learning analytics in ways that protect students, educators and institutions (Ferguson et al., 2016). However, traditional ethical and legal frameworks are challenged by the rapid pace of technological changes in the field of learning analytics and the ways in which data is collected, stored and analysed (Roberts et al., 2017) and are not always applicable to learning analytics.

Ethical considerations of learning analytics such as those related to data ownership and control, data management and security, anonymity and consent vary depending upon the uses and purposes of learning analytics. Is student data being collected and analysed with the intention to improve teaching and learning, to inform institutional planning and processes or to conduct research into the student experience (Corrin et al., 2019)?

The report by Slade and Tait (2019) proposes ten core issues that are important on a global basis for the use and development of learning analytics in ethics-informed ways. These issues include transparency, data ownership and control, accessibility of data, validity and reliability of data, institutional responsibility and obligation to act, communications, cultural values, inclusion, consent and student agency and responsibility.

The discussion paper by Cornin et al. (2019) examines seven key ethical principles, including: privacy, data ownership and control, transparency, consent, anonymity, non-maleficence and beneficence, data management and security and access. The paper profiles a range of existing learning analytics frameworks used internationally including the Jisc Code of Practice for Learning Analytics (2018), The Open University’s (UK) Policy on Ethical Use of Student Data for Learning Analytics (2014) and the DELICATE Checklist (Drachsler and Greller, 2016 and Drachsler, 2018).

For your SoTL research, find out about the ethical guidelines and code of practice for using learning analytics in your institution. For example, UK’s Leeds University has developed a Code of Practice on Learning Analytics [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] for their staff. Also, find out how students are being informed about the ethical considerations related to the use of learning analytics in your institution. For example, The Open University (OU) informs the students as a part of the Student Policies: Learning analytics and you.