Do academics and university administrators really know better? The ethics of positioning student perspectives in learning analytics

Deborah West, Ann Luzeckyj, Danny Toohey, Jessica Vanderlelie, Bill Searle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
46 Downloads (Pure)


Increasingly learning analytics (LA) has begun utilising staff- and student-facing dashboards capturing visualisations to present data to support student success and improve learning and teaching. The use of LA is complex, multifaceted and raises many issues for consideration, including ethical and legal challenges, competing stakeholder views and implementation decisions. It is widely acknowledged that LA development requires input from various stakeholders. This conceptual article explores the LA literature to determine how student perspectives are positioned as dashboards and visualisations are developed. While the sector acknowledges the central role of students, as demonstrated here, much of the literature reflects an academic, teacher-centric or institutional view. This view reflects some of the key ethical concerns related to informed consent and the role of power translating to a somewhat paternalistic approach to students. We suggest that as students are the primary stakeholders - they should be consulted in the development and application of LA. An ethical approach to LA requires that we engage with our students in their learning and the systems and information that support that process rather than assuming we know we know what students want, what their concerns are or how they would like data presented. Implications for practice or policy: • Universities should actively engage with students to understand their concerns related to learning analytics. • Universities should ensure that learning analytics dashboards are deployed in line with student requirements from their perspective. • Institutions need to provide students and staff with training in the use of learning analytics. • Universities should ensure that data is collected transparently and with students’ knowledge and, where appropriate, informed consent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-70
Number of pages11
JournalAustralasian Journal of Educational Technology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2020

Bibliographical note

Articles published in the Australasian Journal of Educational Technology (AJET) are available under Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives Licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). Authors retain copyright in their work and grant AJET right of first publication under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.


  • Learning analytics
  • Student perspectives
  • Ethics
  • Student concerns
  • Data privacy
  • learning analytics
  • student concerns
  • student perspectives
  • data privacy
  • ethics


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