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Perspectives, perceptions and privacy: Voices in higher education learner data

Oregon State Ecampus liberal studies alumna Janine Romero stands on a balcony speaking to her husband, Lee. Janine is one of several Ecampus alumni who shared about the process of building a network and communication skills while earning an Oregon State degree online.

Interdisciplinary research team organized by Oregon State Ecampus explores learning analytics from a systems perspective

Feb. 9, 2022

Institutions of higher education are perpetually collecting data about their students and faculty. How that data is collected and analyzed varies widely, but one thing is certain according to industry experts at EDUCAUSE:

The use of learning analytics will be one of the leading technologies and practices that significantly impacts the future of teaching and learning.

In an effort to add to the conversation taking place in and around this quickly changing landscape, the Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit recruited an interdisciplinary team of researchers from nine institutions to develop a study on learning analytics in higher education from a systems perspective.

Learning analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and actionable reporting of data related to learners and their environments. The goal is to better understand and optimize learning and the contexts in which learning occurs.

“In higher education institutions, disaggregated data can potentially target gaps and weaknesses in institutional processes in new and novel ways, but these data-driven practices might not always be beneficial for all stakeholders within our systems,” said Mary Ellen Dello Stritto, director of the OSU Ecampus Research Unit. “We set out to learn more about this complex interplay.”

The study that emerged — titled Learning Analytics in Higher Education: Stakeholder Voices — included interviews with seven stakeholder groups from nine higher education institutions across the United States.

A total of 59 participants were interviewed including 20 students, 10 faculty members, nine instructional designers, six data analysts, five administrators, five diversity and inclusion leaders, and four academic advisors and coaches.

These are the 10 authors of the study who came together to meet this research need in the field of learning analytics.

  • Mary Ellen Dello Stritto, Oregon State University
  • Rob Nyland, Air University
  • Allen S. Brown, Wake Forest University
  • Benjamin Croft, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Rebecca E. Heiser, Athabasca University
  • Shannon McCarty, Bay Path University
  • Darragh McNally, University of Maryland Global Campus
  • Joshua Quick, Indiana University-Bloomington
  • Rebecca Thomas, Oregon State University
  • Marla Wilks, University System of Georgia eCampus

“Learning analytics is really at the cutting edge of what we’re doing in higher ed right now, but there’s a lot of confusion around what it means and what the potential is,” said McNally of University of Maryland Global Campus. “I wanted to be a part of this in order to help get some clarity around that.”

Added McCarty of Bay Path: “I think this collective approach brings a lot more to the field than each of us doing [research] in silos.”

Read the publication for study details. You can also read the team’s related article published by EDUCAUSE on implications for practice.

And learn more about how the Ecampus Research Unit contributes to effective online teaching, learning and program administration.

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