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Privacy expert Kyle Jones says student data collection can lead to ethics concerns

August 26, 2019

Kyle Jones

Dr. Kyle M.L. Jones

Kyle Jones, assistant professor in the Department of Library and Information Science at the IU School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI, is in high demand these days, conducting research on learning analytics and sharing his expertise on the ethics of data privacy across the country. Recently, he received two new grants from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), on which he is co-PI, and was interviewed for the Hechinger Report and by WUWM, an NPR affiliate in Milwaukee, following his symposium talk on the topic of student privacy.

Jones’ $306,682 grant (LG-18-19-0032-19)—in collaboration with Amy VanScoy at the University of Buffalo— investigates faculty perspectives of student privacy and their practices in relation to emerging learning analytics tools and initiatives.

Learning analytics are becoming embedded in the practices of many higher education actors, from administrators to advisors and increasingly faculty/instructors. Jones says, “As my research argues, there are significant privacy issues associate with learning analytics. And if we accept that faculty can and often do make instructional choices when adopting educational technologies—like learning analytics—that may affect student privacy, then it follows there may be a need to further explore how faculty values, perspectives, and baseline knowledge about student privacy inform those choices.” This grant will support first-of-its-kind research in this area. and bring together librarians, faculty, and instructional technologists/designers in the final phase to collaboratively develop strategies to improve student privacy conditions at higher education institutions.

It’s vital that students be able to trust that universities won’t release personal data to the public, and that the schools get the students to consent to collecting information or allow them to opt out of disclosure.

-Kyle Jones, WUWM 89.7 interview

The $249,198 training grant (RE-18-19-0014-19)—in collaboration with Lisa Hinchliffe of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign—will support the development of a continuing education program that will train academic library practitioners to comprehensively address student privacy and fills a significant gap in academic librarians’ professional practice. Jones says the ethics of learning analytics are so paradigm-shifting that there is a real need to provide practitioners the time and space to learn, reflect on, and prepare to address emerging ethical issues, including privacy, fairness, and student autonomy and agency.

Together, the two grants will complement Jones’ existing research, which was funded by the IMLS in 2018. Andrea Copeland, chair of the Department of Library and Information Science, says, “Dr. Jones’ research is an integral component to the body of data science research in our school as it critically examines the ethical implications of data collection and use, ensuring the inclusion of humanistic approaches along side technological advances.”

About IMLS

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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 and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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