Are We on Our Way to Becoming a “Helicopter University”? Academics’ Views on Learning Analytics


Higher education institutions are developing the capacity for learning analytics. However, the technical development of learning analytics has far exceeded the consideration of ethical issues around learning analytics. We examined higher education academics’ knowledge, attitudes, and concerns about the use of learning analytics though four focus groups (N = 35). Thematic analysis of the focus group transcripts identified five key themes. The first theme, ‘Facilitating learning’, represents academics’ perceptions that, while currently unrealized, there could be several benefits to learning analytics that would help their students. Three themes; ‘Where are the ethics?’, ‘What about the students!’, and ‘What about me!’ represented academics’ perceptions of how learning analytics could pose some considerable difficulties within a higher education context. A final theme ‘Let’s move forward together’ reflected that despite some challenges and concerns about learning analytics, academics perceived scope for learning analytics to be beneficial if there is collaboration between academics, students, and the university. The findings highlight the need to include academics in the development of learning analytics policies and procedures to promote the suitability and widespread adoption of learning analytics in the higher education sector.

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    NAPLAN (National Assessment Program—Literacy and Numeracy) is an annual assessment for Australian primary and secondary school students, with school results posted online.


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Correspondence to Joel A. Howell.

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Howell, J.A., Roberts, L.D., Seaman, K. et al. Are We on Our Way to Becoming a “Helicopter University”? Academics’ Views on Learning Analytics. Tech Know Learn 23, 1–20 (2018).

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  • Learning analytics
  • Higher education
  • Academic attitudes
  • Big data