Data mining in education has many benefits such as personalized and adaptive learning, the ability to analyze assessments and track student success are some ways in which we see data analytics are being used. The four main categories of benefits seen from data mining educational datasets are:
- Anticipating how students will behave and what motivates them to learn
- Developing and improving content delivery and adapting delivery to the learner
- Improving learner supports
- Researching ways in which students use educational technology
Even with these benefits, there are people who fear data mining will lead to a more nefarious use of the data, which raises the ethical issues around big data in educational technology.
First, let’s look at which data is being tracked by institutions or educational technology. A myriad of data is being stored from each learner including demographics, the registration process [payment, enrollment, etc.] and course work [tests, assignments, research, papers, everything]. In many cases, data is being stored and labelled.
With cheap storage being ubiquitous we are now keeping everything… forever. There is virtually no limitations on physical space, storage space or cost. Therefore, all colleges and universities should have a policy classifying data, how it will be stored and for how long. This data should not be kept indefinitely or be identifiable. For example, there has been several major universities that have been hacked with names, social insurance numbers, dates of birth and more being taken. Sometimes in excess of 300,000 learner records.
Data collected from the actual learning technology should be de-identified with demographics protected for long term storage. This keeps the data informative and open but protects the student’s right to privacy. In this way, researchers can still analyze the data and receive all the benefits of data mining.
As data mining continues to be utilized in edtech, educational ventures will need to ensure the data collected is safe with a solid plan for storage, security and end-of-life cycles defined in order to protect their learners and stakeholders.