Transparent analytics for different user groups

Analytics Intelligence user needs surveys started from the everyday observation that learning analytics and its use are not familiar to students or even staff. Of course, it was clear to the respondents that various registration systems exist containing information about students, studies and training, yet respondents were not particularly familiar with the concept of learning analytics For example, the University of Tampere does not have in place learning analytics operations. 

The project conducted user needs surveys in Spring 2019 at six partner universities. There was a total of five questionnaires, targeted at different user groups: students, teachers, tutor-teachers / tutors, study coordinators and those responsible for education. The questionnaire was answered by 183 students and 170 staff members. Questionnaires aimed at different user groups revealed the different user groups needs in utilising analytics intelligence in the context of learning. A rich basis of data was collected from open-ended questions, in particular, on how the university should use registry data, and the underlying ethical issues involved in its use. Open answers were well received, as about half of the respondents answered those open questions. 

Both students and staff were particularly unanimous about the use of the study data at the university. Over half of the respondents said in open answers that they would like the university to use registry data to design and develop teaching. In contrast, responses to ethical issues raised different views across different user groups. Students identified guidance, transparency, the impact and misuse of information, and the use of sensitive information as major ethical concerns. Most of the staff considered these same issues to be ethical issues, but surprisingly many (13.8% of the respondents) felt that there were no ethical issues with the use of registry information. This was an interesting research result, as there were no ready-made answers to the question, but each respondent was allowed to write his or her own views on the ethical issues involved in utilising registry information. 

The differences between the views of students and staff may be explained by visions coming from different angles. Students may not have fully embraced the potential opportunities offered by learning analytics to their studies, or to the university general management system. The staff, on the other hand, may have a very instrumental approach to utilising learning analytics. The student’s own data disclosure is a personal matter, but staff see students partly as a faceless mass. Although there is no real contradiction, they represent different aspects of analytics such as privacy and productivity. The most important aspect is that the various functionalities and their meaning are carefully thought through, well-founded and ethically sound, and agreed by all parties. Based on the results, there is still much to be done in the domain of learning analytics. Users should be trained in analytics in general, and in particular in the use of various services and applications. This should also be accompanied by a discussion on both the ethical use and rules of analytics. 

Hanna Lindsten

Jussi Okkonen

Tampere University