Student perspectives on the use of their data: between intrusion, surveillance and care

Slade, Sharon and Prinsloo, Paul (2014). Student perspectives on the use of their data: between intrusion, surveillance and care. In: Challenges for Research into Open & Distance Learning: Doing Things Better – Doing Better Things, pp. 291–300.


The Open University (OU) is a large, open distance learning institution with more than 200,000 students. In common with many other higher education institutions (HEIs), the University is looking more closely at its use of learning analytics. Learning analytics has been defined as the collection and analysis of data generated during the learning process in order to improve the quality of learning and teaching (Siemens, Dawson, & Lynch, 2013). In the context of the Open University, learning analytics is the use of raw and analysed student data to, inter alia, proactively identify interventions which aim to support students in completing their study goals. Such interventions may be designed to support students as individuals as well as at a cohort level.

The use of a learning analytics approach to inform and provide direction to student support within the Open University is relatively new and, as such, existing policies relating and referring to potential uses of student data have required fresh scrutiny to ensure their continued relevance and completeness (Prinsloo & Slade, 2013). In response, The Open University made the decision to address a range of ethical issues relating to the University’s approach to learning analytics via the implementation of new policy. In order to formulate a clear policy which reflected the University’s mission and key principles, it was considered essential to consult with a wide range of stakeholders, including students.

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