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Learning Analytics, the Academic Library, and Positive Intellectual Freedom

Kyle Jones


College and universities are actively developing capacity for learning analytics, which is a sociotechnical system supported by an assemblage of educational data mining technologies and related Big Data practices. Like many Big Data technologies, learning analytics implicates privacy by surveilling behaviors captured by data-based systems and aggregating and analyzing personal information. Issues of privacy are often linked to concerns about intellectual freedom. Consequently, librarians fervently argue for surveillance-free spaces and places to promote the conditions they believe are necessary to support intellectual freedom. In this commentary, I contrast this common view of intellectual freedom with a separate theory, “positive intellectual freedom,” to show how libraries may be able to participate in learning analytics practices while upholding intellectual freedom as a lodestar guiding practice and policy.

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