Topics for further understanding

Responsible use of data in educational environments entails commitments to honor the integrity, discretion, and humanity of students. It also obliges instructors and organizations to improve practice in light of accumulating information and knowledge.

The scale of digital data and the complexity of the higher education enterprise challenge coherent discussion of responsible data use. It can be helpful to parse consideration into three broad topics:

RESEARCH to build basic knowledge

Educators are now obliged to continuously improve learning environments informed by systematic evidence. Digital technologies have brought many new mechanisms for producing, evaluating, and deploying such evidence. Yet in order for relevant research to accumulate and develop into tractable insight, researchers must develop shared units of analysis and empirical and theoretical frontiers while safeguarding student privacy and discretion.

Alex Kindel (Princeton) summarizes relevant discussion from the 2016 convening. A white paper by Tim McKay (Michigan) offers fuller explication.

APPLICATION for educational improvement

Data describing instructional interactions may be applied to a wide variety of goals. Educational organizations should be clear and explicit about what goals they seek to pursue through the applied use of data. Organizations should develop clear and explicit messages to students and instructors about data applications and provide students and instructors with opportunities for inquiry and redress of potential misuse.

Sharon Slade (Open University UK) and Emily Schneider (Stanford) summarize relevant discussion at the 2016 convening. A white paper by Sharon Slade (Open University UK) offers fuller explication.

REPRESENTATION of learning and accomplishment

The currently conventional academic transcript is the result of a highly contingent history and will continue to evolve with changes in the political, organizational, and technical conditions of higher education. Care should be taken to distinguish research data from official academic records. The distinction between research data and official records should be clear and explicit to all parties involved in the production of student information.

Ben Gebre-Medhin (UC Berkeley) and Helen L. Chen (Stanford) summarize relevant discussion at the 2016 convening. A white paper by Ethan Hutt (Maryland) offers historical context.