What Will Be, Will Be . . . Or Maybe Not
A small conference took place recently at the Asilomar Conference Center in Monterey, California. About 75 University representatives and a handful of technology vendors gathered for “Asilomar II: Student Data and Records in the Digital Era”.
We could summarize the conference as being about “Data Security”, but this would be misleadingly simple. The real issue is not who has access to student information, but rather how to apply the data, as a representation of a particular student.
The Student Record or “transcript” is at the heart of student information, indeed at the heart of education itself. The Student Record is a kind of avatar, it is the academic representation of the student to the world, and especially to potential employers or graduate schools.
Advances in computational capacity and new data streams describing student behavior create opportunities to build “Student Activity Hubs” which aggregate student data – and not just academic results, but personal data, into a “Student Profile”.
The question is – who decides which data points make up the student profile? The answer seems not to be, the student. At a time when users of social utilities are increasingly savvy about “building their brand”, students will soon come to realize the opportunities for influencing their academic brand.
A critical point is the use of predictive data to forecast student “success”, and the consequent opportunity for educators to partner with students to write a new future for a student, rather than see that predicted future as their “destiny”.
While personalization has long been elemental to face-to-face teaching and advising, the use of algorithmic systems and predictive models through digital media brings capacity for personalization at mass scale. It also raises important dilemmas. What principles should educators apply when deciding who may know what about students? What responsibilities does possession of this knowledge entail — for schools, businesses, instructors, and researchers? What sort of infrastructure is needed to realize the benefits of these technologies and ensure their appropriate use?