Grant of $514,000 will allow researchers to study what students think about how their library data is used


Seven researchers from seven university campuses, including a librarian from OSU Libraries, have received grant funding to study what students are thinking about how university libraries use their data. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), an independent agency of the U.S. federal government, announced in April that they were fully funding the project with a grant of $514,000.


“I am thrilled to be participating in this study,” says OSU Assessment Librarian M. Brooke Robertshaw, Ph.D., “not only because of the team I get to work with, but because of what we are setting out to do: we are listening to the voices of the students, which is absolutely vital. Ultimately, the data being used in learning analytics is the students’ data, and this research will be a big step to giving students a voice in how their data is used in higher education.”


Learning analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of student and other data for the purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs. Libraries are pursuing library analytics insights in order to evaluate the impact on student learning of library services, collections and spaces.


Very little research has addressed learning analytics and student privacy issues from a student perspective, and so the researchers believe that there is a need for this research to fill the knowledge gap.

The research project is called “Getting to Know Their Data Doubles: An inquiry into student perceptions of privacy issues associated with academic library participation in learning analytics.”

Kyle Jones, Ph.D., of Indiana University-Indianapolis is the primary investigator. In addition to Dr. Robertshaw of OSU Libraries, the other researchers are from Indiana University-Bloomington, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Illinois-Chicago and Northwestern University. An eighth site at Linn-Benton Community College will have a site coordinator and data will be collected by Dr. Robertshaw.


“The grant is three phases,” according to Dr. Robertshaw. “Kyle will be leading phases one and three, and, because of my expertise in survey development, I will be leading phase two.”

The grant runs from May 2018 to April 2021. During phase one, the research team will conduct preliminary interviews with students to identify themes about library participation in library analytics generally and with regard to privacy. During phase two, the research team will deploy a survey to undergraduate and graduate students at each researcher’s respective institution. In the third and final phase, each team member will run a series of scenario-based focus groups with students to explore possible applications of library analytics that respect and break expectations of privacy. All three phases will lead to peer-reviewed scholarship, practitioner-focused conference presentations, workshop materials, and a toolkit for informing library practitioners about student privacy and library analytics.


One of the six advisors for the research project is Anne-Marie Deitering, Associate University Librarian for Learning Services at OSU Libraries.


According to the research project’s primary investigator, Dr. Jones, “We simply do not know how students regard educational data mining and analytics practices; equally, we know little about their privacy expectations. And if institutions want to justify work in this space, empirical evidence is needed. Our IMLS-funded work will be able to provide some of this evidence at scale. On behalf of the team, we are proud and excited that IMLS chose our grant out of a highly competitive pool of applicants.”



Posted - August 15, 2018