This report explores the data governance considerations when working with online learning data, looking at how educational institutions should rethink how they can better manage, protect and govern online learning data and personal data to improve the online academic experience for staff, students, and the higher education community. The Covid-19 pandemic has increased the adoption of technology in education by higher education institutions in the UK. Although students are expected to return to in-person classes, online learning and the digitisation of the academic experience are here to stay. This includes the increased gathering, use and processing of digital data. Innovative and forward-thinking data governance strategies should take into account the collection and processing of student and staff administrative data, as well as teaching data; explore how digital tools are used to benefit learning; and look at what the data archival practices are at an institutional level. Such governance strategies create new opportunities to improve the value of data within higher education institutions. Despite the challenges of implementing online learning, there is now an opportunity to create an online learning strategy that is fit for the future of digital education. Our research outlines the roles and responsibilities of different online learning stakeholders, maps online learning data flows, explores the considerations for online learning data governance, and identifies future opportunities for generating value from the digitisation of education. Within online and hybrid learning, university management needs to consider how different forms of online learning data should be governed, from research data to teaching data to administration and the data processed by external platforms. Online and hybrid learning needs to be inclusive and institutions have to address the benefits to, and concerns of, students and staff as the largest groups of stakeholders in delivering secure and safe academic experiences. This includes deciding what education technology platforms should be used to deliver, record and store online learning content, by comparing the merits of improving user experience against potential risks to vast data collection by third parties. Online learning data governance needs to be considered holistically, with an understanding of how different stakeholders interact with each other’s data to create innovative, digital means of learning. When innovating for better online learning practices, institutions need to balance education innovation with the protection of student and staff personal data through data governance, management and infrastructure strategies.
This work was published as part of a Research Fellowship at the Open Data Institute.