Block 4 Activity 20: Ethical use of student data

The OU’s policy on ethical use of student use for learning analytics was the context for this activity.

After reading the policy, write a one-page summary of the key points of the policy aimed at helping at colleague at my own institution (primary school) who was developing a local set of ethical guidelines. I have added my summary below.ethics-clipart-k13072625


Learning analytics is the use of raw and analysed student data to proactively identify interventions which aim to support students in achieving their study goals.  Guiding principles provide a clear framework for ethical applications of these learning analytics.


All data captured has the potential to provide evidence for learning analytics, but data will only be used for learning analytics is there is an expected benefit to student learning.  Learning analytics can be applied to individual students, groups or cohorts and the policy and principles must apply in all cases. Innovative use of student data will impact on current practice, and existing policies relating and referring to potential use of student data will require to be reviewed iteratively. Your policy needs to be informed by consultation with all key stakeholders and a review of existing practice in other schools.  Successful use of a learning analytics approach is dependent on reasonably complete and up-to-date datasets. Your school and the students (or their parents) have a responsibility to ensure that personal data is current and accurate.  Any use of data by the school needs to be compliant with the Data Protection Act.  Risks identified need to be logged with the Authority’s Data Protection Co-ordinator.

Scope of Learning Analytics

At a macro level the learning analytics will aggregate information about student learning experiences in school which will inform strategic priorities within our School Improvement Plan.  These will relate to progression in student learning as we move to close the attainment gap.  At a micro level the learning analytics will be used to drive short, medium and long-term interventions.

Consider the scope of the data to be collected and how it will inform your learning analytics. Personal information and study record (levels achieved so far) along with how the student interacts with other students within their Virtual Learning Environment would be useful to ensure that progression is evidenced.  You may also wish to track details of contact between an enquirer (eg a teacher) or the student and the learning analytics system within school.  Sensitive information (eg ethnicity or disability) may be available only at higher levels of access to the system.

A set of guidelines will need to be created to set out the purpose and boundaries of your learning analytics approach.  This will require updating as the scope of the learning analytics change.  The guidelines will need to take into account ethical and unethical practice. The guidelines should also highlight what types of data that the school doesn’t intend to use.

Policy Statement

Set out how you will use student data in an ethical way in order to shape student support provided by the school. Be mindful of the purpose and boundaries of your learning analytics, ensuring that students have access and that data is used wisely.  Consider levels of access.  All key stakeholders will need to be informed when the learning analytics will be implemented.  See Table 1 for an example of Key Principles.

Schedule, Reviews and Owner of the Policy

Note your policy with the approval date and indicate how often the policy with be reviewed. Detail the owner of the policy and whether they are school or authority based.

Table 1: 8 Key Principles to develop your Policy Statement.

1 Learning analytics is an ethical practice that should align with core school principles.
2 The school has a responsibility to all stakeholders to use and extract meaning from student data for the benefit of students.
3 Students should not be defined only by their visible data or our interpretation of the data.
4 The purpose and boundaries regarding the use of learning analytics should be well defined and visible.
5 The school is transparent regarding the data and will provide students (or their parents/carers) opportunities to update their own data and consent agreements at regular intervals.
6 Students should be engaged as active agents in the implementation of the learning analytics.
7 Modelling and interventions based on analysis of data should be sound and free from bias.
8 Learning analytics within school needs broad acceptance of the values and benefits, and the development of appropriate skills across the school by its users.



Open University, Ethical Use of Student Data for Learning Analytics Policy available online at (accessed on 27 July 2016).


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