Learning Analytics Guiding Principles

This document includes the university's definition for learning analytics, guiding principles, in scope/out of scope learning activities and data, as well as roles and responsibilities for using learning analytics.

This is excerpted from a longer document that includes additional details about data governance and the purpose and background for the creation of the principles. Refer to The Appropriate Use of Data for Learning Analytics Guiding Principles on the vice provost’s page for Learning Analytics at UW-Madison. These guiding principles were created by the Learning Analytics Data Use Subcommittee, endorsed by the Learning Analytics Roadmap Committee on May 13, 2019, and were approved by the Data Governance Council on May 28, 2019.

In this document:

UW-Madison’s Definition of Learning Analytics (LA)

Learning analytics is the undertaking of activities that generate actionable data from the learning environment intended to improve student outcomes by informing structure, content, delivery, or support of the learning environment.

— Contextually defined for UW-Madison by the Learning Analytics Roadmap Committee

Guiding Principles / Values

Students are real and diverse individuals, and not just their data or information. These principles — beneficence, transparency, privacy and confidentiality, and minimization of adverse impacts — aim to uphold the dignity of students while ensuring learning analytics are used to improve educational outcomes.


Minimization of Adverse Impacts


Privacy and Confidentiality

Scope: In Scope & Out of Scope

What is included in teaching and learning data use and learning analytics activities?

As an institution, we are required to collect and retain data as part of the student record. Data Governance Policy classifies LA data as “restricted” because the unauthorized disclosure of personal student information could cause potential harm to individuals affected or a significant level of risk to the university. The Learning Analytics Data Use Subcommittee establishes a clear delineation of what is in scope and what is out of scope for both LA data and LA activities, detailed in these tables.

Learning Analytics Activities
In ScopeOut of Scope
  • Course improvement
  • Improvement of learning activities
  • Personalized individual student learning support
  • Course materials development and improvement
  • Instructional improvement and self-evaluation
  • Program review, evaluation, and accreditation
  • Advising, including communication among advisors and with instructors, about interventions to improve student outcomes
  • Analysis and reporting about targeted student cohorts
  • Research requiring oversight by the IRB (Institutional Review Board)
  • Instructor evaluation by the institution, including tenure review
Data Used for Learning Analytics Purposes
In ScopeOut of Scope
  • Personal data provided by students at application and/or enrollment, including age, race/ethnicity, and gender
  • Data from face-to-face, online, and blended courses, and other learning experiences, such as:
    • student work
    • learning and student engagement
    • assessment (grades, rubrics, direct assessment of outcomes)
    • attendance and participation
    • formative and summative assessment
    • course evaluations (for instructors personal use only)
    • library use
    • tutoring center use
    • conference/workshop participation
  • Data from University-supported systems, including SIS (Student Information System), Canvas, TopHat, G Suite, Piazza, and Atomic Assessments; publisher tools included as required course materials, and the Unizin Data Platform
  • Supplemental data collected by instructors within course context
  • Program level data (outcomes, graduation rates, retention metrics)
  • Student-disclosed mental health information
  • University Health Services records and other HIPAA-protected data
  • Data on student appeals, misconduct, or complaints
  • Students’ financial aid data
  • Disability status
  • Religious, political, or union participation

Roles & Responsibilities

The LA guiding principles apply to everyone. Every stakeholder group has a responsibility to understand this document. Specific stakeholder roles and responsibilities are provided for students, instructors, advisors and leadership.

All stakeholders have the responsibility to:

Students have the responsibility to:

Instructors have the responsibility to:

Advisors (Academic/Career Services and Student Affairs) have the responsibility to:

Program and Institution Leadership have the responsibility to:

See also: