Presented at ALT-C 2016
In our increasingly digital world our students leave an ever-growing electronic footprint behind them as they pass through the physical and virtual campus. This data is still a greatly underused asset (Higher Education Commission, 2016) although a number of UK higher education institutions have already implemented descriptive, inferential and/or predictive Learning Analytics (LAs) solutions using a wide variety of approaches, see for example Sclater (2014).
This paper discusses recent research at an English post-92 university aimed at investigating the benefits and challenges of using LAs. Prompted by a perception that some voices had yet to be given a loud enough voice in relation to a systematic use of big data in the higher education sector. It was particularly concerned with gaining a better understanding of the hopes, fears and needs of those on whom it would be most likely to impact.
This presentation will focus on our findings from of a series of focus groups and interviews with students, university governors and academic professional and support staff that took place during the 2015/16 academic year. Questions were framed around understanding views about the purpose of LAs, concerns about the type of data liable to be used, perceptions of how likely being more informed would result in changes in behaviour and outcomes, and finally how should data be presented.
The results indicated that each group had different areas of interest when it came to the type of data of interest. These spanned the range from what may be regarded as strict LAs to Academic Analytics (for an explanation of the differences see Long and Siemens (2014)). A common theme however, was that most felt that being better informed would lead to better decision making. However, having knowledge about one’s own performance, particularly in relation to peers, was unwelcome in some quarters.
When examining student concerns about data, overall there was a low degree of anxiety and a high degree of trust that the institution in general and tutors in particular would behave responsibly. Concerns about legal and ethical problems were most likely to be voiced by academic, professional and support staff. Transparency, and finding creative approaches to promoting it, was identified as vital by most groups.
During this session we will share our findings in more detail and reflect on our understanding of variations in perceptions between and within different stakeholder groups. We will demonstrate and share a checklist of institutional risks and responsibilities that was developed as an aid to identifying, understanding and managing each of these areas.