Don tasks institutions on students' data privacy

By Debbie Nduba
Prof. Paul Prinsloo : Research Professor ( ODL) UNISA


A research professor in Open and Distance Learning (ODL), Paul Prinsloo, has urged the African higher education institutions to consider students' data privacy when entering into service level agreements with educational technology and platform providers.

Prinsloo stated this on Monday, July 25, 2022 while delivering a virtual presentation titled: “Learning Analytics in Open and Distance Learning, “organised by the National Open University of Nigeria - Regional Training and Research Institute for Distance and Open Learning (NOUN - RETRIDOL).

The University of South Africa (UNISA) professor said African governments should develop common data sharing frameworks to facilitate cross-border data transfer.

“Current African data privacy legislation provides important implications for the adoption and institutionalisation of learning analytics.

"African higher education also has to consider the ethical aspects of learning analytics in Open Universities in the Commonwealth,” he said.

Prinsloo added that Open Universities, by virtue of their openness, can face additional challenges pertaining to student success and student dropout.

                    Participants at the virtual presentation


“Learning analytics has a proven track record in provision of personalised support, identification of students-at-risk and for increasing the effectiveness of pedagogical strategies.

“Determining the use of learning analytics among open universities is challenging, given different levels of digitisation and datafication, asymmetries between the Global North and the Global South in scholarly publications and collaborations; languages in which research is published; and the interchangeable use of learning analytics (LA) and educational data-mining (EDM) to describe the use of institutional data,” the don explained.

Earlier in her opening address, the Director NOUN -RETRIDOL, Prof.Christine Ofulue, said the July Monthly discourse was designed to be a platform for sharing ideas based on research, expertise and generally having conversation on ODL and other related issues as regards development and sustainability.

               Director NOUN -RETRIDOL, Prof.Christine Ofulue,


According to Ofulue , the topic is in the area of research and practice that has witnessed a lot of growth equally in the education space, partly because of need of institutions to better understand their learners and improve on their learning experiences to meet the 21st Century workforce needs.

“This is very pertinent, and as you know in the ODL space there is need for us to track our students because of the flexibility of our provisions and the need to minimize attrition among so many other things," she added.

The director further stated that RETRIDOL was established as collaboration between Commonwealth of Learning (COL) and NOUN with the purpose of building capacity, support research and foster regional partnership for the provisions of quality distance education in Western Africa Sub-region and beyond.