If we accept that learning analytics, as an application of big data or data mining, constitutes a form of surveillance, what does that mean for free inquiry in higher education?
Scholarship confirms that being monitored - or being aware of the potential to be monitored - influences our behavior. Research on online information seeking since Edward Snowden's leak of internal National Security Agency documentation reveals that people are less likely to search for controversial (or simply embarrassing) information online -- correlational evidence of the chilling effect of surveillance.
Surveillance doesn't affect its subjects equally; research reveals its disparate impact on minority populations.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects the confidentiality of students' education records, defined as
"records that are 1) directly related to a student; and 2) maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party or agency acting for the agency or institution."
FERPA protection specifically excludes records
kept in the sole possession of the [instructor]
maintained by campus security departments
maintained by physicians, psychiatrists, or psychologists, or other recognized para-/professionals
of directory information, including but not limited to "student's name; address; telephone listing; electronic mail address; photograph; date and place of birth; major field of study; grade level; enrollment status (e.g., undergraduate or graduate, full-time or part-time); dates of attendance; participation in officially recognized activities and sports; weight and height of members of athletic teams; degrees, honors, and awards received; and the most recent educational agency or institution attended."
FERPA has not been interpreted (by court decision or case law) with respect to its application to learning analytics data.
If an institution implements policies that extend FERPA protection to learning analytics data, this means that eligible students are afforded the right to inspect and correct this data. What are the implications of this policy approach to learning analytics?