Learning Analytics – I’ve been asked for my opinions

UoE is gearing up to put LA systems in place and surveys are being sent out to students as a gesture towards consultation. I was happy to provide the patina of consent to this institutional shift as it gives me some material for this blog. In bold are excerpts from the survey and italics are my comments and questions. I would also like to juxtapose the survey with a twitter conversation on LA systems from previously in the course here and here.


In the forth-coming years, learning analytics will be increasingly prevalent in higher education.

< This is a reasonable statement in isolation but within the context of the survey, especially as the opening line, it makes it sound that the application of LA is fait accompli and uncontroversial.


The educational data is used to implement support services that are used to aid student learning such as the development of early alert systems for those who may be at-risk of failing a course or dropping out, personalised learning environments, and improving student feedback processes.

< Positioning LA as being in line with learner-centred discourse. Possibly as a way of preventing critical engagement with the implications of LA?


As students will be the main beneficiaries from learning analytics, it is important for their opinions and expectations are accommodated into the design and implementation of any developed services.

< A very definitive statement. Are we so sure that students will be the main beneficiaries? Is it possible that the main benefits will be managerial control and perceived administrative efficiency and accountability?


The university will explain all the learning analytics service processes as clearly as possible (e.g., how my educational data is collected, analysed, and used)

< The operative words being “as possible”. How clear will these explanations be? How clear can they be if the university chooses to use propriatory software with blackboxed algorithms? Where will these explanations be made available to students? Will it be obvious or hidden somewhere in the course handbooks (which as a course secretary I can tell you no student looks at, ever)

The university will ask for my consent to collect, use, and analyse any of my educational data (e.g., grades, attendance, and virtual learning environment accesses)

The university will ask for my consent before using any identifiable data about myself (e.g., ethnicity, age, and gender)

< Will consent be asked for once to cover the duration of the degree? Should it be asked for at several points once the students have a chance to live with the implications of their decision? Can I opt in to some data collection but not others? E.g. you can see my grades but not my VLE access?

The university will provide support (e.g., advice from personal tutors) as soon as possible if the analysis of my educational data suggests I may be having some difficulty or problem (e.g., I am underperforming or at-risk of failing)

< Failing is not as subjective as underperforming. If you get less than 40 on an undergraduate course you have failed by the criteria set out by the university. But underperforming is far trickier. This will vary from subject to subject e.g. if I took Maths I’d be overperforming to even get a pass, whilst I would expect to ace a History course. Will the system reflect this?

Underperforming is entirely contingent on circumstances. The best I can do at one point of time, in a particular environment might be completely different in another.

The university will ask for my consent before my educational data is outsourced for analysis by third party companies

< Will it spell out what these third parties intend to do with the data? Will the university profit from selling the data set to third parties? What does it intend to do with said profits? Can they guarantee that the data will be held securely by third parties and not sold on again?

The university will give me the right to opt-out of data collection and analysis even if the action reduces the opportunities to provide me with personal support

< This gives insight into how opt-out will be framed to students. The university will do its best to make it sound like a bad choice so it can preserve the integrity of its data collection.

The university will request further consent if my educational data is being used for a purpose different to what was originally stated

< Again, how will these explanations be framed? Can students opt out later on?

The learning analytics service will collect and present data that is accurate (i.e., free from inaccuracies such as incorrect grades)

< Interesting to see no “as possible” in this sentence. It WILL be accurate, no question. We wouldn’t want to undermine the idea that the analytical data will be infallible.

The learning analytics service will show how my learning progress compares to my learning goals/the course objectives

< And what if I have completely different learning goals from the course objectives? Under what kind of circumstances will the students make their learning goals? Will there be an element of public performance in these goals if they know they are going to be rated on them later on?

The feedback from the learning analytics service will be used to improve the educational experience in a module/course/programme (e.g., identifying problems in the feedback, assessments, and learning activities)

< No mention of whether the introduction of analytics may worsen or just significantly change the education experience in an amiguous way. It will apparently only improve things.

The teaching staff will have an obligation to act (i.e., support me) if the analytics show that I am at-risk of failing , underperforming, or if I could improve my learning

< Which staff? Act in what way? In what time frame? Will the teaching staff be measured on the outcome of their actions? Will their workload be balanced to reflect such expectations?