The use of learning analytics and the potential risk of harm for K-12 students participating in digital learning environments
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This paper is in response to the manuscript titled "Ethical oversight of student data in learning analytics: A typology derived from a cross-continental, cross-institutional perspective" (Willis et al. in Educ Technol Res Dev 66(4):1029-1049, 2016). The response is from a K-12 educational environment perspective. Willis, Slade, and Prinsloo's typology of different ethical approaches to learning analytics adds value to the special issue topic of shifting to digital as it provides different ways to view learning analytics as well as the type of approval(s) possibly needed for each view. K-12 educational institutions can utilize the manuscript as a starting place for review of their ethical oversights when analyzing student data as more schools are shifting to digital. A limitation of Willis, Slade, and Prinsloo's manuscript in supporting the shift to digital is that the manuscript was published before the overwhelming shift to digital was mandated as a result of Covid-19. Future work related to the manuscript and with a focus on the K-12 educational environment could include K-12 education agencies deriving a K-12 specific typology from a review of ethical oversight protocols or analyzing the effects of the shift to digital in K-12 on the original typology. During the 2020 pandemic, K-12 schools in the United States moved to digital learning quickly and in large numbers. This move has resulted in a wealth of digital learning analytics available to be used in improving student learning outcomes. However, local education agencies must first make sure they have a clear framework for oversight of how digital learning analytics will be used. K-12 students are at risk of harm if local education agencies do not stop and carefully reflect on the potential risks to students resulting from decisions made as a result of using digital learning analytics.
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