Learning Analytics: They Know You Haven’t Listened To That Echo Recording

From not doing your readings to knowing where you are on campus, Angelique Carr investigates whether the University knows all of your (university-related) secrets.

Earlier this year the University of Melbourne came into the spotlight after it was reported that they make a habit of tracking students’ locations via Wi-Fi routers on campus. This practice is part of a new field of research known as ‘learning analytics’ and has caused a whole lot of concern over privacy issues.

According to Carol Miles, from UON’s Centre for Teaching and Learning, “learning analytics is the analysis of data from a number of student and university inputs used to improve teaching strategies, inform about student use of various tools, and to improve student outcomes.”

Currently, there are no ‘formal’ analytics programs in place at UON, but we do have a Business Intelligence system, used for marketing and recruitment, that tracks student performance. UON was also one of the first universities in Australia to take part in Blackboard’s ‘Analytics for Learn’ program.

This means that every time you log into Blackboard your data is collected. The aim is to identify students with a high-risk of failure or of dropping out. “Individual Course Coordinators are able to view data…such as missed deadlines; grades; course activity and course access” says Miles.

There’s no use telling your lecturer you’ve done your readings; she already knows you haven’t looked at the course for half a semester.  If you continually disengage from university resources a member of Student Central may email or call you, to check in and find out what’s holding you back.

While there may not be any formal analytics running at the moment, UON is obviously willing to try out new tools. But, because it’s such a new way of implementing technology, there is a possibility that our privacy is at risk. According to one report that looked at learning analytics nationwide, “the relative silence afforded to ethics…is significant.”

Back in 2015, UON refused to sign up for Opal concession cards until Transport for New South Wales could assure that “students’ information will be stored and used in a way that will protect their privacy.” While past performance may not be an indicator of future success, it is comforting to know that our university has previously put privacy before convenience.

Miles says she has “no real concerns that the type of information currently available would pose any threat to student privacy.”

 

If you have any concerns about information privacy, or if you wish to see any of your personal information that the university has, you can contact the university here.

Feature image: Mirkuz via flickr, no changes made.