“We're being tracked at all times”: Student perspectives of their privacy in relation to learning analytics in higher education

Kyle M.L. Jones*, Andrew Asher, Abigail Goben, Michael R. Perry, Dorothea Salo, Kristin A. Briney, M. Brooke Robertshaw

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Higher education institutions are continuing to develop their capacity for learning analytics (LA), which is a sociotechnical data-mining and analytic practice. Institutions rarely inform their students about LA practices, and there exist significant privacy concerns. Without a clear student voice in the design of LA, institutions put themselves in an ethical gray area. To help fill this gap in practice and add to the growing literature on students' privacy perspectives, this study reports findings from over 100 interviews with undergraduate students at eight U.S. higher education institutions. Findings demonstrate that students lacked awareness of educational data-mining and analytic practices, as well as the data on which they rely. Students see potential in LA, but they presented nuanced arguments about when and with whom data should be shared; they also expressed why informed consent was valuable and necessary. The study uncovered perspectives on institutional trust that were heretofore unknown, as well as what actions might violate that trust. Institutions must balance their desire to implement LA with their obligation to educate students about their analytic practices and treat them as partners in the design of analytic strategies reliant on student data in order to protect their intellectual privacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1044-1059
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Science and Technology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems and Management
  • Library and Information Sciences


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