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An elephant in the learning analytics room – the obligation to act

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Presentation and LAK17, Vancouver, BC, 15 March 2017 by Paul Prinsloo (Unisa) and Sharon Slade (OU)

Published in: Education
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An elephant in the learning analytics room – the obligation to act

  1. 1. An elephant in the learning analytics room – the obligation to act By Paul Prinsloo (University of South Africa) @14prinsp Sharon Slade (Open University, UK) @SharonSlade Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lollyman/4941417146
  2. 2. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The presenters do not own the copyright of any of the images in this presentation. We hereby acknowledge the original copyright and licensing regime of every image and reference used. All the images used in this presentation have been sourced from Google and Pixabay and labeled for non-commercial reuse This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
  3. 3. The concerns and various ethical issues in the collection, analysis and use of student data in education have moved from the margins of the discourses in learning analytics to part of the mainstream agenda Prinsloo, P., & Slade, S. (2017). Ethics and learning analytics: charting the (un)charted. In G. Siemens & C. Lang, (Eds), Learning Analytics Handbook. SOLAR. In press. Image credit: http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/highlighted/e/ethics.html Ethics in learning analytics: From the margins …
  4. 4. Ethics in learning analytics: Selected examples 2013-2017
  5. 5. “Does the new knowledge gained bring with it a responsibility to act upon it? What are the ramifications of action or inaction?” (Griffiths, Drachsler, Kickmeier-Rust, Hoel, & Greller, 2016, p.7)
  6. 6. If we know students are/may be at risk, what are the ethical and legal requirements? • Provide disabled students with equitable access • Prevent discrimination • Respond to allegations of (cyber)bullying • Care for students at risk of (physical/mental) harm Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/one-against-all-all-against-one-1744086/ We know that HEIs must:
  7. 7. There appears to be no equivalent regarding an institution’s obligation to act in the event of identifying students at risk of failing. With the growth in the scope and detail of learning analytics, it is valid to question whether students would have recourse to (legal) action if they were identified as more likely to fail, but not warned and/or supported.
  8. 8. • Our understanding of the theory/practice divide • The role of political will and institutional responsiveness • Integration in institutional sense-making • Resource/capacity constraints • Student responsibility and autonomy Our response is determined by … Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/doors-choices-choose-open-decision-1587329/
  9. 9. While we specifically focus on the moral and legal obligations of institutions to respond to students at risk, it is important to note that the responsibility to create an enabling environment for student success does not exonerate students from taking responsibility for their learning.
  10. 10. Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/masondan/8903961105 Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/law-books-legal-court-lawyer- 1991004/ Mapping responsiveness - the balance between ethics and law
  11. 11. Teleological • The potential for harm • The scope of consent • Recourse in cases of unintended harm are negotiated and agreed upon Deontological • Basis for legal and regulatory frameworks • Terms and Conditions • By consent and/or contract • Works well in stable environments Two traditional approaches to being ethical
  12. 12. A combination of • a utilitarian approach (action that “provides the greatest balance of good over evil”); • a rights approach (referring to basic universal rights such as the right to privacy, not to be injured, etc); • a fairness or justice approach; • a common-good approach (the welfare of the individual is linked to the welfare of the community); and • a virtue approach (based on the aspiration towards certain shared ideals) Velasquez, M., Andre, C., Shanks, T.S.J., & Meyer, M.J. (2015, August 1). Thinking ethically. Retrieved from https://www.scu.edu/ethics/ethics-resources/ethical-decision-making/thinking-ethically/ An alternative perspective
  13. 13. “…there is no general ‘duty to rescue’ a person in even the gravest danger if the actor has no control over that person …. regardless of how easy and risk-free it would be”. But wait – it is more complex than this… Massie, A. M. (2008). Suicide on campus: The appropriate legal responsibility of college personnel. M. Law Review, 91 (3) Imagecredit:https://pixabay.com/en/empty-life-guard-stand-red-beach-1592792/
  14. 14. A duty to rescue arises: 1. where a dangerous situation is created which causes a person to fall into peril. Under such circumstances the person who created the context has a duty to rescue; 2. where a special relationship exists between two parties, e.g., between parents and children, or employers and employees. The principle of ‘reasonable care’ comes onto play, although "…what constitutes reasonable care is contextual”. It might expect to differ in relation to young elementary school pupils compared to college students, for example Is there an argument that universities and colleges specifically take on this obligation at the point of formal registration? Massie, A. M. (2008). Suicide on campus: The appropriate legal responsibility of college personnel. M. Law Review, 91 (3)
  15. 15. It is accepted (in the US at least) that accountability holds as a result of the special relationship between a higher education institution and its students - even where those students are adults – if there is: • foreseeability of harm (to the student) – potential harm can be identified; • degree of certainty – which the institution should take reasonable steps to prevent – there is understanding that (in)action would lead to potential harm; • existence of some kind of mutual dependence, often involving financial benefit (to the institution) arising from the relationship; And that having foreseen the potential for harm, there is moral blameworthiness in failing to act Massie, A. M. (2008). Suicide on campus: The appropriate legal responsibility of college personnel. M. Law Review, 91 (3)
  16. 16. Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/bag-leather-leather-case-briefcase-1509756/ Two case studies
  17. 17. Case study 1: Open University Large open distance learning institution ±200, 000 students Pilot OU study using predictive tools to deliver information direct to teaching staff • self selecting tutors – weekly engagement variable, around 25% • No formal expectation that tutors should engage with analytics • Proactive student support presented as part of role guidance rather than contractual expectation • Potential conflict with OU policy which has, as one of its main principles, that the University “has a responsibility to all stakeholders to use and extract meaning from student data for the benefit of students Although it is fair to say that policy often lags practice, the reluctance to enforce an obligation to act as part of tutor contract review appears a missed opportunity and inconsistent with broader policy.
  18. 18. Case study 2: Unisa Large open distance learning institution (around 300, 000 students) • Most courses are technology-supported (not technology dependent) -> implications for what we assume about students’ digital footprints • Support provided by teaching assistants and E-tutors, with different contracts Mode A: Signature courses (fully online)… • 200 students per TA, in four classes of 50 • TAs mark 10 assignment items per student per semester • Most time spent marking and on administrative issues, little time to facilitate discussions and learning Mode B: technology supported courses • E-tutors provide reactive student support • Student participation in online activities is not compulsory • Little or no follow up for disengaging students • No explicit reference to the use of a learning analytics approach to make sense of student behaviours, nor to predict or act upon any insight gained.
  19. 19. Case study 2: Unisa (cont) Despite the widespread use of technology as a means to deliver/support teaching and learning, little or no thought has been given to how student data can be used in an active learning analytics approach. The move toward proactive tracking and alert systems for staff and students has been flagged as a future initiative which would have contractual implications for the work of both e-tutors and TAs.
  20. 20. Realising the obligation to act Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/newton-s-cradle-balls-sphere-action-256213/
  21. 21. 1. Co-responsibility in an asymmetrical power and contractual relationship …obligation to act is a co-responsibility of students and institution, tempered by the asymmetrical power and contractual relationship in which the institution has very specific moral and legal duties to respond Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/michelangelo-abstract-boy-child-71282/
  22. 22. 2. Data, information and knowledge • expectations and assumptions regarding data collection processes & the collected data itself, should be scrutinized for bias, statistical error and unintended consequences • data does not necessarily translate into information and knowledge • collection and analysis of data increases the necessity and scope of the obligation to act. Image credit: http://www.irishtimes.com/business/the-sensor-rich-data-scooping-future-1.2196914
  23. 23. 3. The scope and implications of the moral basis for the obligation to act Image credit: https://pixabay.com/p-534751/?no_redirect • simple reliance on rules and legal frameworks is not enough • need to engage with the potential of both a deontological (rule based, T&Cs) and teleological approach (negotiated, agreed ethical norms) in exploring the scope, limitations and reasonableness of the obligation to act
  24. 24. Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/agree-english-consent-contract-1728448/ 4. The scope and implications of the legal basis for the obligation to act The contractual obligation between student and institution is tempered by the notion and definition of reasonable care Remains largely unclear (untested) Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/agree-english-consent-contract-1728448/
  25. 25. 5. Implications of an obligation to act for policies and performance agreements • The case studies highlight the importance of an institutional, integrated response to information and knowledge • The obligation to act should be embedded in the contracts of those at the forefront of teaching to ensure oversight and accountability……. although • The ability to respond is muddied and embedded in broader institutional policies and funding arrangements • Simply having an ethical policy does not necessarily result in the will or the resources to respond • We should (re)consider the responsibilities which flow from knowing more about our students – to involve, inform and enable students to take the necessary steps to alleviate risk Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tape_Measure_Massband_10_cm.svg
  26. 26. 6. The potential and perils of new developments in technology There is a need to address (newer) ethical challenges posed by the use of algorithms, machine learning and Artificial Intelligence while not ignoring their potential to make greater sense of student learning, or to respond to students with specific needs Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/hand-robot-machine-697264/
  27. 27. (In)conclusions • Knowing more about our students and making this information and knowledge available to a range of stakeholders, does not necessarily result in action • A rule-based response to the obligation to act may not be sufficient • A teleological approach that determines the scope, timeliness and resources needed to enact the obligation to act should be negotiated between everyone affected • Responses may be constrained by a range of factors, such as lack of political will, gaps in performance contracts and/or a lack of resources, but these do not indemnify or exonerate higher education from ignoring legal/moral obligation to act
  28. 28. THANK YOU Paul Prinsloo (Prof) Research Professor in Open Distance Learning (ODL) College of Economic and Management Sciences, Office number 3-15, Club 1, Hazelwood, P O Box 392 Unisa, 0003, Republic of South Africa T: +27 (0) 12 433 4719 (office) T: +27 (0) 82 3954 113 (mobile) prinsp@unisa.ac.za Skype: paul.prinsloo59 Personal blog: http://opendistanceteachingandlearning.wordpress.com Twitter profile: @14prinsp Sharon Slade (Dr) Senior Lecturer Faculty of Business and Law The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, United Kingdom T: +44 (0)1865 486250 Sharon.slade@open.ac.uk Personal blog: http://odlsharonslade.wordpress.com/ Twitter profile: @SharonSlade

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