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Evaluation of policy frameworks for addressing ethical considerations in learning analytics (LAEP Inventory)

Cloud created by:

Rebecca Ferguson
11 February 2016


This LAK '13 conference paper analyses policy frameworks from two large distance education universities, The Open University in the UK and the University of South Africa.


The paper reports that although a great deal of data was collected from and about students by the institutions, learning analytics were not explicitly addressed within the policies of either institution at the time of writing. Both institutions’ policy frameworks were focused on national and international legislative issues around intellectual property, data privacy, and data protection.


The review highlights the irregularity of learning analytics where the institution is the only stakeholder with decision-making power, determining the scope, definition and use of educational data without the input of other stakeholders – specifically students.


It is clear from the existing policy frameworks of both institutions that the definition and scope, harvesting and analysis of data are imbalanced and non-transparent affairs.


This research indicates that some higher education institutions’ policy frameworks may no longer be sufficient to address the ethical issues in realising the potential of learning analytics.


Inventory type:

analysis of policy-related issues

Document source:

LAK '13 Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Learning Analytics and Knowledge, educational establishment


data protection, ethics, privacy

Policy Context




International: UK, South Africa


This analysis relates to policy documents of The Open University in the UK and the University of South Africa, dated in or before 2013.

Maturity and Evidence of Utility

The analysis discusses issues that are pertinent for any university that is using or wishes to use learning analytics, but that has not considered the potential policy implications.


It considers issues arising from two different educational contexts so findings should be applicable to institutions operating in either of the contexts and potentially beyond these.

Further Information

Location of policy document:


Slade, Sharon and Prinsloo, Paul (2013). Learning analytics: ethical issues and dilemmas. American Behavioral Scientist, 57(10) pp. 1509–1528.

See also LAEP Inventory records:

Ethical use of student data policy – The Open University

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