The Syllabus as a Student Privacy Document in an Age of Learning Analytics
Journal of Documentation, Forthcoming
31 Pages Posted: 10 May 2019
Date Written: 2019
Purpose: This study aims to reveal how instructors discuss student data and information privacy in their syllabi.
Design/methodology/approach: The authors collected a mixture of publicly accessible and privately disclosed syllabi from 8,302 library and information science (LIS) courses to extract privacy language. Using privacy concepts from the literature and emergent themes, the authors analyzed the corpus.
Findings: Most syllabi did not mention privacy (98%). Privacy tended to be mentioned in the context of digital tools, course communication, policies, and assignments.
Research limitations/implications (if applicable): The codebook developed during the analysis provides a structure for future research on privacy issues in the higher education context. The transferability of the findings is limited because they address only one field and professional discipline, library and information science, and address syllabi for only online and hybrid courses.
Practical implications (if applicable): The findings suggest a need for professional development for instructors related to student data privacy. The discussion provides recommendations for creating educational experiences that support syllabi development and constructive norming opportunities.
Social implications (if applicable): Instructors may be making assumptions about the degree of privacy literacy among their students or not value student privacy. Each raises significant concerns if privacy is instrumental to intellectual freedom and processes critical to the educational experience.
Originality/value: In an age of educational data mining and analytics, this is one of the first studies to consider if and how instructors are addressing student data privacy in their courses, and the study initiates an important conversation for reflecting on privacy values and practices.
Keywords: learning analytics, student privacy, syllabi
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