Kyle Jones Publishes Three Articles Addressing Aspects of Learning Analytics and Student Privacy

Kyle Jones, a collaborator on the Data Doubles project, has published three new peer-reviewed journal articles in recent months. Each article addresses various aspects of student privacy in relation to emerging learning analytics practices. All three articles are cited below with their abstracts for readers to find out more about his research.

Jones, K. M. L. (2019). Just because you can doesn’t mean you should: Practitioner perceptions of learning analytics ethics. portal: Libraries & the Academy, 19(3), 407–428. doi: 10.1353/pla.2019.0025

Learning analytics involve the process of gathering data about students and using the information to intervene in their lives to improve learning and institutional outcomes. Many academic libraries now participate in learning analytics. However, such practices raise privacy and intellectual freedom issues due to sensitive data practices. But, few research studies address how library practitioners perceive the ethical issues. This article does so by analyzing interviews with library practitioners. The findings suggest that library professionals seek ethical “bright lines”—that is, clearly defined standards—where few exist and that ethical guidance is limited. Though library practitioners recognize that data practices should be scoped and justified, their efforts have come under severe scrutiny—and sometimes harassment—from their professional peers. The article highlights why ethical dissonance has emerged in the profession regarding learning analytics and how library practices might better account for the harms and benefits of learning analytics

Jones, K. M. L. (2019). Learning analytics and higher education: A proposed model for establishing informed consent mechanisms to promote student privacy and autonomy. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 16(24), 1–22. doi: 10.1186/s41239-019-0155-0

By tracking, aggregating, and analyzing student profiles along with students’ digital and analog behaviors captured in information systems, universities are beginning to open the black box of education using learning analytics technologies. However, the increase in and usage of sensitive and personal student data present unique privacy concerns. I argue that privacy-as-control of personal information is autonomy promoting, and that students should be informed about these information flows and to what ends their institution is using them. Informed consent is one mechanism by which to accomplish these goals, but Big Data practices challenge the efficacy of this strategy. To ensure the usefulness of informed consent, I argue for the development of Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P) technology and assert that privacy dashboards will enable student control and consent mechanisms, while providing an opportunity for institutions to justify their practices according to existing norms and values.

Jones, K. M. L., & VanScoy, A. (2019 – forthcoming). The syllabus as a student privacy document in an age of learning analytics. Journal of Documentation. Preprint available at

Purpose: This study aims to reveal how instructors discuss student data and information privacy in their syllabi.

Design/methodology/approach: The authors collected a mixture of publicly accessible and privately disclosed syllabi from 8,302 library and information science (LIS) courses to extract privacy language. Using privacy concepts from the literature and emergent themes, the authors analyzed the corpus.

Findings: Most syllabi did not mention privacy (98%). Privacy tended to be mentioned in the context of digital tools, course communication, policies, and assignments.

Research limitations/implications (if applicable): The codebook developed during the analysis provides a structure for future research on privacy issues in the higher education context. The transferability of the findings is limited because they address only one field and professional discipline, library and information science, and address syllabi for only online and hybrid courses.

Practical implications (if applicable): The findings suggest a need for professional development for instructors related to student data privacy. The discussion provides recommendations for creating educational experiences that support syllabi development and constructive norming opportunities.

Social implications (if applicable): Instructors may be making assumptions about the degree of privacy literacy among their students or not value student privacy. Each raises significant concerns if privacy is instrumental to intellectual freedom and processes critical to the educational experience.

Originality/value: In an age of educational data mining and analytics, this is one of the first studies to consider if and how instructors are addressing student data privacy in their courses, and the study initiates an important conversation for reflecting on privacy values and practices.

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