The monitoring aspect of technology, it’s recording in the form of data and then that data is interpreted to make changes, has been reported to create a huge impact in almost every field. But if you are a student, the hugeness of this situation may be unmatched. Hannah Smethurst, a legal tutor researching the impact of technology at the University of Edinburgh interprets how this software has more information on students than some banks do.
Referring to a system called Solutionpath Stream that boasts about tracking, how often students log into aspects such as:
1) Their virtual environment.
2) Click on any content.
3) Hard in any work.
4) Take out books from the library.
5) Access Journals.
6) View reading lists.
7) Print, scan, or photocopy documents.
8) Log on to computers owned by the university.
9) Attend lectures, seminars, and workshops.
It is worth thinking about how this system works, for ensuring that students engage in their education more and more. And for that they are contacted by a student advisor. Additionally, it automatically emails students every two weeks if they have low engagement with the university.
This student tracking engagement analytics tool has been used by the University of the West of England. And it is not the only university that monitors student engagement to a greater or smaller extent. There are at least 27 universities across the UK that use such software. Monitoring tools are used by universities such as:
a) The Nottingham Trent University
b) The University of Hull
c) The York St University
and many more. These names came into the picture when an analysis of three most popular learning analytics tools i.e. Student attendance tracker at libraries, lectures, and more, turned out to be opaque and little oversight in terms of how much intrusive tracking is used by universities to rely on software for monitoring their students.
The case of Bolton and the Buckingham University
Vice-Chancellor of Bolton University has admitted to using monitoring software for access to learning materials, library use, and lecture attendance. To this, the union president, Ansh Sachdeva admits as per reports how students are punished in case they miss online lectures.
Although Bolton University did not answer any questions related to tracking of its students, Sachdeva went on to report that punishing students if they miss online lectures gives an idea of how much time students have spent and making sure they’ve done their work. Of course students are allowed to see it later as well, but the university is not being forceful on students. And gives them the freedom to have various reasons for not attending!
Trailblazer degree for undergraduates, is unveiled by the University of Buckingham on October 7th. Under which the university has declared how from 2022 students would be psychometrically analyzed for tailoring the learning experience to them. The university claims in its marketing material that,” AI and intelligent platforms will monitor student engagement and understanding, helping staff to see where students are falling behind or need more materials to aid their learning. In addition, the software will flag up at-risk students and alert university staff to those that may need extra attention.” For doing so, the system monitors academic performance, their engagement with course materials as well as other students and additionally takes data from the chat box.
Surveillance is one of the most important needs of this century. The perspective of implying it to students, employees, kids and partners for ensuring safety is well-known. That is why, you can find a number of similar applications such as Mspy, Spyic, etc. These applications let you monitor Smartphones and other devices. And, help you access the virtual social life of your kid, and partners as well as employees’ routine at work. You can monitor a smartphone’s WhatsApp chat, video calls, voice messages, normal calls texts, and much more.
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Reactions of individuals dealing with this issue
Referring to the monitoring during the time of Covid-19, Hugh Stevenson, a third-year student at the University of England feels how this is the perfect time for having access to information now that there’s even less ‘control’ of the students than before.
The President of the National Union of Students, Larissa Kennedy expresses her concerns by blaming software’s employment very little explanation of their purpose. At a bare minimum they need legal assurances on how the student’s data will be used as it lacks transparency and undoubtedly fuels students’ mistrust for universities. It also stokes anxiety, aggravates mental health and dissuades many from political engagement. And that is the reason given by her to resist this from happening at spaces of learning turning.
The industry board that represents universities across UK, Universities UK declined to answer questions including the prevalence of the use of such digital monitoring tools, because of which, Jisc’s regulatory advisor, Andrew Cormack was concerned who was audacious enough to admit how the body doesn’t have sight of all the tools that individual members are currently using. Jisc is a not-for-profit organization supporting universities for implementing such technologies.
The number of guides on how to use these tools safely and rigorously was updated in August 2018; that is almost two years before the new code on Wellbeing and mental health analytics was first published. But Cormack went onto claim how the adoption of digital learning platforms, that began long before the current pandemic, significantly increased the amount of data available to universities about how students learn. This is done to understand and improve learning – in particular to provide faster feedback and guidance than traditional assessment processes. Something which has been a subject for academic research of not recent days or months, but at least a decade.
Case study of America
Lillian Edwards, a professor of Law, innovation and society at Newcastle University pointing out the case of America mentions an important point.
“Every university is doing it differently, and then trying to assess good practice. The evidence from America is that campuses end up being an experimental Petri dish for this kind of extreme datafication and surveillance. There’s a balance between helping them study and taking all their personal data. But even taking that away, you get down to what happens to that data. Could it be taken out of context? Someone misses two tutorials and says they were isolating. That might then lead to algorithmic conclusions being made that this person is not keeping up with their studies or is depressed.”
Above mentioned concerns around monitoring activities of students does not present a most important concern i.e. Universities end up selling data that they have collected, to future employers and a raft of associated industries including insurers. And this practice is being followed by universities all across the country for generating supplementary income by selling the data they have collected by monitoring their students. What the