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Addressing Ethics Of Education Data

by Carl Straumsheim

Inside Higher Ed

Article excerpt

Preparing for 'Era of Data Ubiquity'

Imagine if a college, using learning analytics, has determined that students of a specific ethnic background who live in a handful of zip codes and score a certain way on standardized tests are highly likely to earn a low grade in an important course — potentially jeopardizing their chances of graduating on time. Should the college actively prevent those students from enrolling in the course?

Our take

The Ethical Use of Educational Data

The ability to collect, aggregate and analyze data holds great promise for many industries, including education. There are challenges, though, in terms of how to ethically and appropriately use that data in making decisions that impact students. As data begins to be put to more predictive uses, what discussions should you be having within your school system, with teachers, parents and students?

Researchers from several colleges and universities gathered together in June to discuss issues related to the use of ever-increasing amounts of data available to educators in ways that don’t raise concerns about privacy or ethical issues. Their discussions resulted in some ideas for the responsible use of student data including: shared understanding, a commitment to transparency, informed improvement and open futures. Now is a good time to begin thinking about having these same types of conversations in your districts or colleges. These researchers’ ideas can serve as a good starting point. The factors surrounding big data’s role in education require thoughtful consideration and ultimately, big decisions.