Legal, Risk and Ethical Aspects of Analytics in Education

After some initial feedback on the CETIS Analytics Series, we’ve had a wee re-think of our publication schedule and today we launch the “Legal, Risk and Ethcial Aspects of Analytics in Education” written by David Kay (Sero Consulting), Naomi Korn and Professor Charles Oppenheim.

As all researchers are only too well aware, any practice involving data collection and reuse has inherent ethical and legal implications of which institutions must be cognisant. Most institutions have guidelines and policies in place for the collection and use of research data in place. However, the gathering of usage data primarily from internal systems, is an area where it is less commonplace for institutions to have legal and ethical guidelines in place. As with a number of developments in technology, current laws have not developed at a similar pace.

The “Legal, Risk and Ethical Aspects of Analytics in Higher Education” paper provides a concise overview of legal and ethical concerns in relation to analytics in education. It outlines a number of legal actors which impinge on analytics for education, in particular:

* Data Protection
* Confidentiality & Consent
* Freedom of Information
* Intellectual Property Rights
* Licensing for Reuse.

The paper also recommends a set of common principles which have universal application.

*Clarity; open definition of purpose, scope and boundaries, even if that is broad and in some respects extent open-ended,

*Comfort & care; consideration for both the interests and the feelings of the data subject and vigilance regarding exceptional cases,

*Choice & consent; informed individual opportunity to opt-out or opt-in,

*Consequence & complaint; recognition that there may be unforeseen consequences and therefore provision of mechanisms for redress.

Being aware of the legal and ethical implications of any activity requiring data collection is fundamental before undertaking any form of data analysis activity, and we hope this paper will be of use in helping inform and develop practice. As ever, if you have any comments/ examples please use the comments section to share them with us.

The paper is available to download here.

The papers published so far in the series are:

*Analytics, What is Changing and Why does it Matter?
*Analytics for the Whole Institution; Balancing Strategy and Tactics
*Analytics for Learning and Teaching

2 thoughts on “Legal, Risk and Ethical Aspects of Analytics in Education”

  1. Hi Sheila, I asked our focus group at work what they thought about being informed before you complete a learning activity (could be on/offline) that you can opt-in to receive system monitoring and feedback about how well you have been able to put into practice what you have learnt – for a couple of weeks after you completed the initial learning activities after which point the monitoring and analysis would stop.

    Aside from the ethics of whether they were empowered to have a choice in whether it would stop or not….thoughts were that it partly depended on your relationship with your line manager, especially if it is seen as performance monitoring. Some felt they were happy for a system to do the monitoring and feedback but wanted to opt-in or out at a more granular level as to who sees that feedback and analysis and for how long.

    They also felt that this would not be the same for every learning activity and the opt-in/opt-out would change depending on context too as well as relationships with line manager.

    I guess it kind of translates to student / instructor / facilitator / institution.

  2. Hi Nicola

    Thanks for sharing this. Yes I think context is always going to be crucial. We’re going to be sharing a couple more case studies over the next month or so which will look at some of these issues in more detail.


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