Ethical considerations about the ‘datafication’ of education

Keynote held by Javiera Atenas, Open Education Working Group, UK | en+de

Our society is one not of spectacle, but of surveillance

Michel Foucault. Panopticon, 1975


Learning analytics are metrics designed to reflect performance and achievement, obtained through the analysis of datasets, with the aim of predicting success or failure depending on student behaviour. In common with various forms of  metrics, these are not as innocent as they may seem, as they may be used either to support or to stigmatise learners in relation to their performance and background. This session considers some potential effects of this ‘datafication’ of education.


It is key that stakeholders understand the metrics and algorithms used, as these can have an impact on teaching practices, as every activity becomes datafied in order to monitor, increase and improve performance, and possibly driving engagement towards measurable rather than meaningful activities.


The intention is to gain ‘actionable insights’ from learning analytics, but another question is whether institutions are resourced sufficiently to take action, or whether action is intended to be automated. Educational centres and educational technology providers need to be aware of their social responsibility, ensuring that learner data can only be used and accessed by those who have a legitimate interest in seeing it, preventing potential inappropriate or unethical uses, and also, to work with an awareness that learning and teaching goes beyond measurement of performance.

Javiera Atenas holds a PhD in Education and is senior fellow of the higher education academy (UK) she is the education lead of the Latin American Initiative for Open Data and co-coordinates the Open Education Working Group. Her research is focused in Open Data, Critical Pedagogies, Civic Education and Open Policies.

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Last Change: 2020-01-26 22:02:11