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Privacy and Learning Analytics: A Data Ethics Workshop for Library Professionals

2022 Preconference
Tuesday, November 1, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm

Registration is required, and is included on the main Charleston Conference registration page. Attendance of the full Charleston Conference is not required to attend this session.

Facilitator Team: Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and Kyle Jones (Indiana University-Indianapolis)

Maximum Enrollment: 25 people who are currently working in an academic library

Cost: Free (Funding provided by by an IMLS National Leadership Grant, see details below.)

Description:  Higher education institutions are facing significant accountability pressures to prove that their efforts produce valuable results and their resource expenditures are justifiable. In addition to traditional business intelligence strategies, colleges and universities have adopted learning analytics methods to investigate issues of student learning and success. Learning analytics are the “measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting of [student and other data] for the purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs” (Siemens, 2012, http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2330601.2330605). Learning analytics have helped institutions optimize advising, predict student retention, and increase student engagement. Feeling the same pressures as their institutions, as well as the desire to contribute to student learning and success, academic libraries have begun to participate in learning analytics practices. 

Nonetheless, regardless of the benefits that could accrue, learning analytics unquestionably presents challenges to student privacy, thus straining the professional ethics commitments that librarians make to uphold user confidentiality, respect privacy in information seeking and use, and support intellectual freedom. Librarians may feel a desire to refrain from engaging with campus learning analytics projects, meaning that librarian values around privacy and confidentiality are missing from campus conversations. This workshop seems to overcome this hesitancy by providing training about privacy and other related ethical issues associated with learning analytics through structured, reflective activities that enable participants to plan for proactive engagement with campus learning analytics work and contribute to the development of privacy protections in learning analytics.

This workshop is an offering of Prioritizing Privacy, a multi-faceted continuing education program to train academic library practitioners to comprehensively address privacy and other related ethical implications of learning analytics projects. Prioritizing Privacy is funded by an IMLS National Leadership Grant and more information is available on the project website  (https://prioritizingprivacy.org/).

Workshop Outline:

  1. Introduction: An interactive introductory lecture will provide a foundation about learning analytics in higher education and the ethical issues that are raised by this work, with particular attention to the privacy and frameworks for privacy by design.
  2. Engagement: Participants will complete a series of structured, reflective exercises, specifically developing a library analytics privacy vision and/or stakeholder talking points, and improve them through a scaffolded editing process.
  3. Collaboration: Participants will share their drafts and provide feedback through a structured reflection and discussion process.
  4. Summary: Participants will identify next steps and articulate an action plan for bringing privacy to campus discussions about learning analytics.

Learning Outcomes — Participants will be able to …

  • Describe the social, political, and technological elements of learning analytics in higher education, generally, and academic libraries, specifically, and analyze learning analytics and the ways in which they may create privacy harms.
  • Develop ethical and evidence-based library learning analytics activities that are based in privacy by design.
  • Design an action plan for engaging with learning analytics, information privacy, and ethical practice at one’s home institution.

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