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Photo of Kyle Jones, assistant professor in the Department of Library and Information Science

LIS professor receives IMLS grant to research learning analytics and privacy

May 1, 2018

Kyle M. L. Jones, assistant professor in the Department of Library and Information Science (LIS) at the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing, has received a $514,000 three-year grant (#LG-96-18-0044018) from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

The project, “Getting to know their data doubles: An inquiry into student perceptions of privacy issues associated with academic library participation in learning analytics,” is a collaboration between IUPUI and researchers at six other academic institutions. Jones is the principal investigator on the grant.

Mathew J. Palakal, associate executive dean of the School of Informatics and Computing, said, “This is certainly a remarkable achievement. We congratulate Kyle on receiving this highly competitive grant.”

Learning analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting of student and other data. Goals of learning analytics are to identify factors that impede or promote success, enhance pedagogy, reinforce student learning outcomes, shore up retention rates, and improve institutional efficiencies, among others.

Libraries are pursuing learning analytics to evaluate the impact of library services, collections, and spaces on student learning. Higher education administrators often expect their libraries to tie efforts and resource expenditures to student success. Learning analytics is one way to demonstrate these metrics.

Andrea Copeland, director of the LIS department, said “Librarians’ professional ethics have always placed considerable value on an individual’s right to privacy and Dr. Jones’ work will provide leadership in this new area of concern—safeguarding the privacy of academic library users.”

Like other data mining and analytic practices, learning analytics raises a number of questions around privacy. The team wants to learn what privacy issues students identify in relation to particular technologies, goals, and data practices, types and sources—especially as these things relate to library initiatives. They will also explore how perceptions change based on demographics, which library and non-library learning analytics scenarios are acceptable to students, and how students would resolve any existing privacy problems.

Jones says, “It is necessary to respect the privacy of our students, and this research will give them a voice. There are a lot of assumptions floating around that students don’t care about their privacy. That may be so, but we need empirical evidence to back up these claims and inform institutional uses of student data.”

Researchers will conduct preliminary interviews with students to identify themes, then survey undergrad and graduate students at each researcher’s institution. Following that, they will run a series of focus groups to explore possible learning analytics applications that respect and break expectations of privacy.

The team is currently developing a website to disseminate findings and discuss progress, but their work is immediately accessible by following their Twitter account, @datadoubles. In addition to publishing and presenting their work, they also plan to create research-informed training sessions, teach workshops at participating institutions, and develop “Libraries, Learning Analytics, and Student Privacy: A Toolkit,” which will be deposited in IUPUI’s institutional repository at year three.

Jones is joined by the following members of the research team :

·      Andrew Asher, Indiana University-Bloomington
·      Kristin Briney, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
·      Abigail Goben, University of Illinois at Chicago
·      Michael Perry, Northwestern University
·      M. Brooke Robertshaw, Oregon State University
·      Dorothea Salo, University of Wisconsin-Madison

About IMLS

Institute of Museum and Library Services, IMLS, logo
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s approximately 120,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.