Downsides to Big Data analytics in Higher Education

Blog Post created by smachaje on Jul 19, 2017
Learning analytics looks at proxies for learning, and it can be tempting to mistake correlations for causation.

robotics-research-review.jpgPredicting the future is an enticing idea to academic leaders. Programmers have their "Design Patterns", which are methods to solve problems in the code, before such problems become evident. However, we have seen some unfortunate stories connected with analytics and Big Data in education. Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland “drown the bunnies” is a good example. Even students are calling out to have permission to fail. I think we should welcome failure and use it as a tool for teaching.


Quantitative research in education dealing with student success is often not objective. Studies funded by textbook publishers find that students who read the textbook often get better grades. LMS companies report that students who check their grades often are more successful. May there be a causation versus correlation issue here?


Recently Blackboard posted an interesting article about analytics. There was a paragraph on "downsides". I appreciated this thread of concerns being voiced in a published report.


"Learning analytics looks at proxies for learning, and it can be tempting to mistake correlations for causation. Learning analytics requires close cooperation between campus departments that traditionally have worked independently (e.g., IT, academic affairs, student affairs, and faculty). Data required for learning analytics can be distributed across campus and difficult to integrate, particularly if technology vendors format data in proprietary ways. Available data may not be suitable for analytics models. Using student data for analytics raises ethical issues surrounding data privacy and institutional obligations to act on analytics findings, including by providing resources to assist those learners. Analytics algorithms may include biases and may mislead the very students they are intended to help, perhaps prioritizing efficiency toward a credential over a learner’s passions. Misapprehensions about analytics among university administrators can result in unrealistic expectations for results, and some faculty resist analytics, arguing that it focuses on behavior rather than on learning." Read the article by J. Allen, T. Cavanagh, M. Gunkel, and John Whitmer : 7 Things You Should Know About Developments in Learning Analytics


The software project Course Gamification Tools represents a form of protest against the misuse of Big Data in Education.

The project: Course Gamification Tools for Blackboard Learn


The story: Course Gamification Tools for Blackboard Learn – The Rest of the Story | Gamification and Play :: Experience Design for …


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