Tech Firms Struggle With Student Data Use Issues

November 8, 2017
 

As reported by Inside Higher Ed, tech companies are collecting an enormous amount of data from universities and colleges, but even big players like Microsoft seem unsure how best to harness the potential of this assembled information, said speakers at a session at Educause's annual meeting in Philadelphia.

During the "Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: The Art of the Possible" session, a Microsoft representative demonstrated new developments in the Delve application that could help boost student and faculty productivity. By showing users information about their individual work performance, such as how quickly they respond to emails or how much time they spend writing papers, the app can track work habits and prompt users to work more effectively.

But the real potential of this application doesn't lie in the individual data, but in data about groups. Potentially, institutions could use algorithms to analyze the data and identify students who might be struggling and help them -- a good thing. But institutions could also use the data to pinpoint faculty members who never respond to their emails or don’t seem to be doing any writing -- an altogether more sinister prospect to professors (particularly for the nontenured). Given this quandary, the question of what to do next is one that Microsoft hasn’t yet answered, presenters said.

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