The Syllabus as a Student Privacy Document in an Age of Learning Analytics

Journal of Documentation, Forthcoming

31 Pages Posted: 10 May 2019

See all articles by Kyle M. L. Jones

Kyle M. L. Jones

Indiana University-Indianapolis (IUPUI)

Amy VanScoy

University at Buffalo, SUNY

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

Suggested Citation

Jones, Kyle and VanScoy, Amy, The Syllabus as a Student Privacy Document in an Age of Learning Analytics (2019). Journal of Documentation, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Kyle Jones (Contact Author)

Indiana University-Indianapolis (IUPUI) ( email )

535 W. Michigan Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202-3103
United States


Amy VanScoy

University at Buffalo, SUNY

School of Nursing
3435 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14214
United States

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