OU Ethics of Learning Analytics - Block 4, Activity 20

Open University’s policy on ethics, can be summarised thus:

  • Useful for identifying students not completing course requirements.
  • Identifying students who might be ‘at risk’ based on online behaviour.
  • Evaluation of the teaching/learning design.
  • Issues about data protection, in line with UK data protection regulations.

Frankly, given this modern day and age of concern about privacy, the regulations seem weak and open to abuse. The OU appears to have a ‘cop out’ policy hiding behind national (UK) regulations. There is however a document that outlines ‘principles’ far better (ie gives more comfort to an OU student) such as:

  • OU needs to be responsible in it's use of learning analytics to enhance student success.
  • The OU would actively guard against simply using learning analytics to sterotype behaviour and/or passing judgments on students based on previous data analysis.
  • OU needs to be transparent on the data it's collecting from the student, and students need to be engaged active agents in the implementation of learning analytics.
  • Learning analytics requires sound analysis of data and an acceptance of the values of learning analytics.

I thinkt he last point is a bit dodgy, it seems to say ‘you have to accept learning analytics as a principle if you want to study at OU.’

Implement Ethics Policy in an Institution

With respect to designing and implementing a policy at an organisation (other than it’s probably a good idea to get learning analytics data, even if it’s not clear why/how it would be useful. I think the following should be considered.

  • Learning Analytics should not be manadatory but an opt in/opt out policy. Perhaps a policy accpetance should be that students are by default 'opted in' but they have to accept terms and conditions SPECIFICALLY for the use of their data that explains that their data is set up by default to 'opt in' and they can 'opt out' at any time.
  • An explanation of how the data is stored to assure students that their data cannot be hacked or identified even if the data is hacked.
  • An explanation of which kind of institutional or organisational personnel can access the student's data.
  • Easy and free access to the student's on analytical data and IF there is a learning intervention from the institution's staff based on the learning analytics, that the intervention is prefaced with the learning analytics data that the educator used to take a decision to intervene.

Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.  -Will Durant