Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (of data): navigating the temptations of the post-COVID hybrid campus
For several years, universities and colleges have been exploring the potential use of activity data – already gathered by their digital systems – to improve their processes. Learning processes were the first to adopt these techniques, with a wide range of “learning analytics” services already in use. Similar approaches to curriculum development and effective use of campus spaces are also being explored. The COVID-19 pandemic has raised the question of whether infection prevention and support processes might also be data-enhanced. The adoption of a hybrid teaching mode by many institutions – where students are present on campus, but some face-to-face activities move online – is likely to increase the amount of data available. However this comes at a time of high stress, for both students and staff, when many of the concerns that had already been raised about “analytics” – over-simplification, lack of contextual awareness, dataveillance and a possible reaction against technology – are particularly salient. Emergency laws may provide less guidance. This paper suggests four questions – Will it Help? Will it Work? Will it Comfort? and Will it Fly? – as a framework for discussing data-enhanced processes among campus communities. Five “concept cars” are used to illustrate how these questions can be used to explore ideas and identify those likely to be widely accepted. If a proposed use of data cannot achieve consensus and trust there is unlikely to be willing compliance with its data collection or advice.
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