Skip to main content

Learning Analytics within Higher Education: Autonomy, Beneficence and Non-maleficence

Abstract

Higher education institutions are increasingly relying on learning analytics to collect voluminous amounts of data ostensibly to inform student learning interventions. The use of learning analytics, however, can result in a tension between the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) principles of autonomy and non-malfeasance on the one hand, and the principle of beneficence on the other. Given the complications around student privacy, informed consent, and data justice in addition to the potential to do harm, many current practices around learning analytics within higher education can be considered to be in violation of CAS standards. This paper aims to explore this tension in greater detail and argues that the student voice offers a promising way to ensure that students’ autonomy is respected, harm is reduced, and that higher education institutions can still fulfil the principle of beneficence.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • 1st International Conference on Learning Analytics and Knowledge, Banff, Alberta, February 27–March 1 (2011). https://tekri.athabascau.ca/analytics/

  • Bain, J. (2010). Integrating student voice: Assessment for empowerment. Practitioner research in higher education, 4(1), 14–29

    Google Scholar 

  • Barneveld, A., Arnold, K. E., & Campbell, J. P. (2012). Analytics in higher education: establishing a common language. ELI Paper 1. Educause Learning Initiative. https://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI3026.pdf

  • Beattie, S., Woodley, C., & Souter, K. (2014). Creepy Analytics and Learner Data Rights. In B., Hegarty, J., McDonald, & Loke, S. K. (Eds.). Rhetoric and Reality: Critical perspectives on educational technology. Proceedings ascilite Dunedin 2014 (pp. 421–425)

  • Benjamin, M., & Jessup- Anger, J. (2020). Maybe I should… Case studies on ethics for student affairs professionals. Lexington Books

  • Bovill, C. (2013). Students and staff co-creating curricula: An example of good practice in higher education?. In Dunne, E., & Owen, D. (Eds.), The student engagement handbook (pp. 461–476). Bingley: Emerald Group

    Google Scholar 

  • Bovill, C., Cook-Sather, A., & Felten, P. (2011). Students as co-creators of teaching approaches, course design and curricula: implications for academic developers. International Journal for Academic Development, 16(2), 133–145

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brown, M., & Klein, C. (2020). Whose data? Which rights? Whose power? A policy discourse analysis of student privacy policy documents. The Journal of Higher Education, 91(7), 1149–1178. https://doi.org/10.1080/00221546.2020.1770045

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Campbell, J. P., DeBlois, P. B., & Oblinger, D. G. (2007). Academic analytics: A new tool for a new era. EDUCAUSE Review

  • Chen, B., & Zhu, H. (2019). Towards Value-Sensitive Learning Analytics Design. Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Learning Analytics & Knowledge, 343–352. https://doi.org/10.1145/3303772.3303798

  • Cook-Sather, A. (2006). Sound, presence, and power: “Student Voice” in educational research and reform. Curriculum Inquiry, 36(4), 359–390. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-873X.2006.00363.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Corrin, L. (2021). Shifting to digital: A policy perspective on ‘Student perceptions of privacy principles for learning analytics’ (Ifenthaler & Schumacher 2016). Educational Technology Research and Development, 69(1), 353–356. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-020-09922-x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Corrin, L., Kennedy, G., French, S., Buckingham Shum, S., Kitto, K., Pardo, A. … Colvin, C. (2019). The Ethics of Learning Analytics in Australian Higher Education. A Discussion Paper. https://melbournecshe.unimelb.edu.au/research/research-projects/edutech/the-ethical-use-of-learning-analytics

  • Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (2015). CAS statement of shared ethical principles. In J. B. Wells (Ed.), CAS professional standards for higher education (9th Ed.). http://standards.cas.edu/getpdf.cfm?PDF=D67207DB-A711-46AA-86038F4A48ACF434

  • Dietz-Uhler, B., & Hurn, J. E. (2013). Using learning analytics to predict (and improve) student success: A faculty perspective. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 12(1), 17–26

    Google Scholar 

  • Ferguson, R., & Clow, D. (2017). Where is the evidence? A call to action for learning analytics. In: LAK ’17 Proceedings of the Seventh International Learning Analytics & Knowledge Conference, ACM International Conference Proceeding Series. AC., pp. 56–65

  • Greller, W., & Drechsler, H. (2012). Translating Learning into Numbers: A Generic Framework for Learning Analytics. Educational Technology & Society, 15(3), 42–57

    Google Scholar 

  • Heath, J. (2014). Contemporary Privacy Theory Contributions to Learning Analytics. Journal of Learning Analytics, 1(1), 140–149. https://doi.org/10.18608/jla.2014.11.8

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Johnson, J. A. (2017). Structural justice in student analytics, or, the silence of the bunnies [Paper presentation]. Eastern Sociological Society Annual Meeting. Philadelphia, PA, United States

  • Jones, K. M. L., Asher, A., Goben, A., Perry, M. R., Salo, D., Briney, K. A., & Robertshaw, M. B. (2020).). “We’re being tracked at all times”: Student perspectives of their privacy in relation to learning analytics in higher education. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 71(9), 1044–1059. https://doi.org/10.1002/asi.24358

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jones, K., & Salo, D. (2018). Learning analytics and the academic library: Professional ethics commitments at a crossroads. College & Research Libraries, 79(3), 304–323. https://doi.org/10.5860/crl.79.3.304

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kruse, A., & Pongsajapan, R. (2012). Student-centered learning analytics. CNDLS Thought Papers

  • https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.475.106&rep=rep1&type=pdf

  • Ku, H. B., Yuan-Tsang, A. W. K., & Liu, H. S. (2009). Triple capacity building as critical pedagogy: A rural social work practicum in China. Journal of Transformative Education, 7(2), 146–163

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Larusson, J. A., & White, B. (2014). Introduction. In White, J. A., & White, B. (Eds.), Learning analytics: From research to practice. Springer

  • Long, P., & Siemens, G. (2011). Penetrating the fog: Analytics in learning and education. EDUCAUSE Review

  • May, M., Iksal, S., & Usener, C. A. (2017). The side effect of learning analytics: An empirical study on e-learning technologies and user privacy. In Costagliola, G., Uhomoibhi, J., Zvacek, S., & McLaren, B. M. (Eds.), Computers Supported Education (pp. 279–295). Springer International Publishing

  • Oblinger, D. G. (2012). Let’s talk analytics.EDUCAUSE Review

  • Pardo, A. (2014). Designing learning analytics experiences. In White, J. A., & White, B. (Eds.), Learning analytics: From research to practice. Springer

  • Postman, N. (1995). The end of education: Redefining the value of school (1st ed.). Knopf

  • Prinsloo, P., & Slade, S. (2013). An evaluation of policy frameworks for addressing ethical considerations in learning analytics. Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Learning Analytics and Knowledge-LAK ’13, 240. https://doi.org/10.1145/2460296.2460344

  • Prinsloo, P., & Slade, S. (2015). Student privacy self-management: Implications for learning analytics. Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Learning Analytics and Knowledge-LAK ’15, 83–92. https://doi.org/10.1145/2723576.2723585

  • Prinsloo, P., & Slade, S. (2017). An elephant in the learning analytics room: The obligation to act. Proceedings of the Seventh International Learning Analytics & Knowledge Conference—LAK ‘17, 46–55. https://doi.org/10.1145/3027385.3027406

  • Roberts, L. D., Howell, J. A., Seaman, K., & Gibson, D. C. (2016). Student attitudes toward learning analytics in higher education: “The Fitbit version of the learning world. ” Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1959. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01959

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Seale, J. (2009). Doing student voice work in higher education: An exploration of the value of participatory methods. British Educational Research Journal, 36(6), 995–1015. https://doi.org/10.1080/01411920903342038

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Selwyn, N. (2019). What’s the problem with learning analytics? Journal of Learning Analytics (3), 11–19. https://doi.org/10.18608/jla.2019.63.3

  • Shum, S. B., & Ferguson, R. (2012). Social learning analytics. Educational Technology & Society, 15(3), 3–26

    Google Scholar 

  • Slade, S., & Prinsloo, P. (2013). Learning analytics: Ethical issues and dilemmas. American Behavioral Scientist, 57(10), 1510–1529. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002764213479366

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Prinsloo, P., & Slade, S. (2017). An elephant in the learning analytics room: The obligation to act. Proceedings of the Seventh International Learning Analytics & Knowledge Conference, 46–55. https://doi.org/10.1145/3027385.3027406

  • Solove, D. (2014). The battle for leadership in education privacy law: Will California seize the throne? Teach Privacy. https://teachprivacy.com/battle-leadership-education-privacy-law-will-california-seize-throne/

  • Thille, C., & Zimmaro, D. (2017). Incorporating learning analytics in the classroom. New Directions for Higher Education, 2017(179), 19–31. https://doi.org/10.1002/he.20240

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thomson, K. E., da Silva, R., Draper, P., Gilmore, A., Majury, N., O’Connor, K. … Waite, J. (2017). Student voice in work integrated learning scholarship: A review of teacher education and geographical sciences. Teaching & Learning Inquiry: The ISSOTL Journal, 5(1), https://doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.5.1.4

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kevin O’Donoghue.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

O’Donoghue, K. Learning Analytics within Higher Education: Autonomy, Beneficence and Non-maleficence. J Acad Ethics (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10805-021-09444-y

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10805-021-09444-y

Keywords

  • Learning analytics
  • Higher education
  • Ethics
  • Student voice