Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A university seeks to analyze the e-mails from students to staff to detect negative comments. Is this ministry, or "ethics of fear"?

few years ago, the library of the University of Huddersfield establishes a connection. They realized that the analysis of the electronic footprint left whenever a student stole the library, borrow a book or seen something online, and put them together with other student records not only could help improve library services, but also address more fundamental questions about how students learn. Using the library, for example, related to the way students and academic achievement?


The answer turned out to be emphatic. Charting library use against academic achievement found that students who do not use the library were more than seven times more likely to leave their degree they did.

from next school year, the collection and analysis of data will become a formal part of Huddersfield teaching and learning strategy. By collecting information about what students are doing, for example, if they attend classes and how they are executed, including their strengths and weaknesses, the university is that the staff and students more aware of what works - and act accordingly. This will impact on the design staff of how the program of studies, during the term of the plan and make decisions about the type of learning support needed by different groups of students or individuals .

"We are looking in terms of student achievement," says Cath Ellis, director of teaching and learning in the School of Music, Humanities and Media at Huddersfield. "How can we get more students outside the range of 2.1 to the first class? "


not the only university to develop the potential of the data. While students in the next Parliament will be better informed than any previous cohort of institutions that have chosen to participate through social networks and two new sets of key information that enables them to compare different aspects of college life, institutions also be better informed than ever about their students.

While universities have systematically collected information on student years - his family background books removed from the library - the rise of computers and improving digital skills now offer the opportunity to rebuild together. It could fundamentally change the way they operate institutions - as well as ethical and privacy challenging

"It's almost losing things, generated as a byproduct of communications, and previously had nothing to do with it," says Rob Englebright, head of the JISC program, which promotes the use of digital technologies in education. "Now we can watch and patterning."

What trends

universities choose to look, and how they use what they find, varies. Some use these so-called analysis of more effective marketing data, others to identify the most effective way to gather a research grant, others to manage staff performance, and much to help prevent school dropout.

one of the first institutions to use data to facilitate retention was Purdue University in Indiana, four years ago presented a semaphore set whenever the students enrolled in the website the course. He warned they were likely to fail (red light), with the behavior of the previous student. A red signal came up with suggestions on how to get back on track to green, participating in help sessions or more.

Since then, some British universities have developed similar systems, such as the University of Derby. It examines how students participate in the university in general, including not only the way they interact with the virtual learning environment, but also if they are the captain of the rugby team and their use of parking.

John Lamb, a student leader of Derby project experience, said: "The staff said that the information gathered would be invaluable help to understand that students come and face challenges.". She says they also help universities after committing students while being useful for writing academic references.

Ellis acknowledges that the idea also presents challenges for the staff, because data analysis monitors your behavior and that of their students. Also potentially increases their workload. She cites anecdotal evidence that some schools are bombarded with personal information about their students without help work out what it means or what to do with it, which raises questions about where the responsibility if nothing is fits on the form.

And while many students are encouraged to see that their behavior is not up to it, others do not. "Having these data and draw conclusions from it does not mean you need to show students or tutors, as it may do more harm than good," says Ellis. "We are still assessing the impact."

Englebright recognizes that look large datasets on "moral fear", because it affects how universities allocate resources. A danger is that they can identify the demographic groups most likely to give up and stop hiring, or decide not to spend money to support students who may leave.
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