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Learners willing to trade personal data

FE students are willing to trade personal information for better grades, Jisc research finds

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | March 02, 2016 | Higher education

More than three-quarters (77%) of further education (FE) students would be happy for their college to use personal information about their learning activities if it helped to improve their grades, according to a new survey by Jisc, the digital services and solutions organisation for UK education and research. 

A further 65% said they would support their institution collecting new data about their study habits, so long as it would support their learning outcomes.

Phil Richards, chief innovation officer, Jisc, said:  “That students are supportive of their data being used to improve learning is a powerful driver for learning analytics by colleges. 

“Just as other sectors like retail, publishing and banking are using big data and analytics to get insights into their customers’ behaviour and use this to be more innovative, effective and competitive in how they deliver, further education needs to do the same.  

“Learning analytics has the potential to support retention, satisfaction and attainment of students, delivering better results for the individual, and for the college – especially important in this time of change and austerity. 

“That’s why Jisc is working to set up the world’s first national learning analytics service, so that colleges can easily benefit from learning analytics technologies. Importantly, it will include a student app, which will allow the learner to monitor and ‘own’ their progress.”

Learning analytics has the potential to support retention, satisfaction and attainment of students, delivering better results for the individual, and for the college – especially important in this time of change and austerity

Other notable results from the survey include 54% of respondents saying they would be willing for their personal data to be used if it meant it would stop them from dropping out of college. Just over half (51%) agreed with this sentiment when questioned about their friends’ data.

Richards continued: “Often, it’s not a case of the college having to go out and generate huge swathes of data about their students. If they support a blended learning model, they’ll already naturally be collecting a lot of the information they need already.

“Every time a student interacts with their college through online services – if they go to the library, log on to their virtual learning environment (VLE) or submit work online – they build a digital footprint. Their college can then use this to create a picture of their study habits and activities, including how, when and where they like to learn, and personalise their approach, as well as giving them the ability to identify and intervene for any students at risk of dropping out.”

The survey – which questioned 166 students currently enrolled in FE courses in the UK – also examined some of the challenges and priorities of today’s learners.

Grades came out as the top worry for students by a long margin, with 92% claiming it to be a frequent cause for concern. It came above finances (78%) and got almost double the responses of the third most popular answer – making and maintaining friendships (52%).

Jisc will be sharing the latest information about its learning analytics pilot and advice at its annual Digital Festival, taking place from 2-3 March at the ICC in Birmingham.

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