Six principles should inform the collection, storage, distribution and analysis of data derived from human engagement with learning resources. The principles are stated here at a level of generality to assist learners, scientists, and interested citizens in understanding the ethical issues associated with research on human learning.
- Respect for the rights and dignity of learners. Data collection, retention, use, and sharing practices must be made transparent to learners, and findings made publicly available, with essential protections for the privacy of individuals. Respect for the rights and dignity of learners requires responsible governance by institutional repositories and users of learner data to ensure security, integrity, and accountability. Researchers and institutions should be especially vigilant with regard to the collection and use of identifiable learner data, including considerations of the appropriate form and degree of consent.
- Beneficence. Individuals and organizations conducting learning research have an obligation to maximize possible benefits while minimizing possible harms. In every research endeavor, investigators must consider potential unintended consequences of their inquiry and misuse of research findings. Additionally, the results of research should be made publicly available in the interest of building general knowledge.
- Justice. Research practices and policies should enable the use of learning data in the service of providing benefit for all learners. More specifically, research practices and policies should enable the use of learning data in the service of reducing inequalities in learning opportunity and educational attainment.
- Openness. Learning and scientific inquiry are public goods essential for well-functioning democracies. Learning and scientific inquiry are sustained through transparent, participatory processes for the scrutiny of claims. Whenever possible, individuals and organizations conducting learning research have an obligation to provide access to data, analytic techniques, and research results in the service of learning improvement and scientific progress.
- The humanity of learning. Insight, judgment, and discretion are essential to learning. Digital technologies can enhance, do not replace, and should never be allowed to erode the relationships that make learning a humane enterprise.
- Continuous consideration. In a rapidly evolving field there can be no last word on ethical practice. Ethically responsible learner research requires ongoing and broadly inclusive discussion of best practices and comparable standards among researchers, learners, and educational institutions.