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Ithaka releases report on “Student Data in the Digital Era”


From the abstract:

 Individual researchers, higher education institutions, and other organizations working in these areas are often hindered by challenges related to technical and analytical capacity and institutional culture, as well as sorting out what it means to collect and use data responsibly. Many have deferred or abandoned efforts in the face of these obstacles. Addressing these challenges, and achieving the potential benefits of the new student data will require a set of guiding principles, coordination within and across institutions, and enhanced technological infrastructure.[1]

To provide an overview of this landscape, we reviewed initiatives in three broad categories:

  • Research: Student data are used to conduct empirical studies designed primarily to advance knowledge in the field, though with the potential to influence institutional practices and interventions.
  • Application: Student data are used to inform changes in institutional practices, programs, or policies, in order to improve student learning and support.
  • Representation: Student data are used to report on the educational experiences and achievements of students to internal and external audiences, in ways that are more extensive and nuanced than the traditional transcript.

Ethical and appropriate data use requires data literacy


Data use should be a continuous, integrated part of practice, a tool that is used all the time. Good teachers have been doing data-driven decision making all along, it just has not been recognized by that term. But there is more work to be done to ensure that educators know how to continuously, effectively, and ethically use data; that is, to help them to be data literate. Several federal laws protect student data — most notably FERPA; teachers and other school officials should have a working knowledge of them.

BYU’s Bold Plan to Give Students Control of Their Data


As Web culture permeates the higher education experience, from Yik Yak conversations to collaborative digital assignments, questions of data privacy are gaining national attention. In 2015, 46 states introduced 182 bills addressing student data privacy, according to nonprofit advocacy group the Data Quality Campaign.

These attempts to protect personal information treat student data as something to be managed and controlled—but don’t give students themselves a voice in how they want their data to be used.

Online Education Run Amok? Private Companies want to Scoop Up your Child’s Data


But when middle and high school students participate in classes with names like “Mars: The Next Frontier” or “The Road to Selective College Admissions,” they may be unwittingly transmitting into private hands a torrent of data about their academic strengths and weaknesses, their learning styles and thought processes — even the way they approach challenges. They may also be handing over birth dates, addresses and even drivers license information. Their IP addresses, attendance and participation in public forums are all logged as well by the providers of the courses, commonly called MOOCs.

With little guidance from federal privacy law, key decisions on how to handle students’ data — including how widely to share it and whether to mine it for commercial gain — are left up to the company hosting the MOOC or its business partners. In fact, student data is even less protected by federal law since the Education Department updated regulations in 2012 to allow for even greater disclosure of students’ personal identifying information.

Your High School Transcript Could Haunt You Forever


Arizona State University, like many colleges across the United States, has a problem with students who enter their freshman year ill prepared in math. Though the school offers remedial classes, one-third of students earn less than a C, a key predictor that they will leave before getting a degree. To improve the dismal situation, ASU turned to adaptive-learning software by Knewton, a prominent edtech company. The result: Pass rates zipped up from 64% to 75% between 2009 and 2011, and dropout rates were cut in half.

But imagine the underside to this seeming success story. What if the data collected by the software never disappeared and the fact that one had needed to take remedial classes became part of a student’s permanent record, accessible decades later? Consider if the technical system made predictions that tried to improve the school’s success rate not by pushing students to excel, but by pushing them out, in order to inflate the overall grade average of students who remained.

Student Data: Trust, Transparency, and the Role of Consent


This paper discusses how data is used both in classrooms and by educators and policymakers to assess educational outcomes.9 It addresses the practical implications of consent requirements both for day-to-day school management and for the education system as a whole. It explores how existing federal laws, including the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), protect student data. It reviews the activities of vendors and the role of individual consent in data processing by the health and financial sectors. It proposes that in lieu of focusing on the technicalities of parental consent requirements, legitimate privacy concerns must be addressed in a manner that protects all students. It argues that parents should never have to opt-out of embracing new technologies simply in order to protect their children’s privacy. Instead, to foster an environment of trust, schools and their education partners must offer more insight into how data is being used. With more information and better access to their own data, parents and students will be better equipped to make informed decisions about their education choices.

Why Students Should Own Their Educational Data


What we need to know about you is your contextualized profile of your performance and what kind of support you’ll need to be able to model your learner profile across contexts. If I had to push for one thing that I think is super important, that is that the user should own their data. There’s this default thing right now which is that everybody but the user owns their data. My vision that we’re going to push for in my organization is you’ve got to have a third party who is responsible for protecting learner data. Then the student could have, say, a decade of data about the way that they’re learning.

What’s a Trove of Insights Into College Applicants Worth? $850-Million


Wherever problems lurk, there’s a slew of possible solutions for sale. So the ever-daunting challenge of enrolling the right mix of students was bound to spawn a big business, one that helps colleges fill their beds and polish their reputations. Over the last few decades, dozens of companies peddling enrollment-management advice and services have built a multibillion-dollar industry, which is now attracting players from other sectors.